Ending the Tobacco Problem - Resources for Local Action
Institute of Medicine

Call To Action


Smoke-Free Beaches and Parks


Smoking bans in outdoor places can be controversial, and few states or communities have tried to implement such bans. While some argue that outdoor smoking bans are impractical because of difficulties in enforcement [1], others have argued that secondhand smoke levels can be quite high even outside, sometimes higher than inside. They also point out that banning smoking outdoors has other benefits, including reducing the risk of fire, minimizing litter, and reducing the frequency with which children and adolescents see adults smoking [2].


How One City Banned Smoking on Beaches


California has one of the oldest and most comprehensive tobacco control programs in the country. Smoking is banned in many public venues, including parks, beaches, piers, gardens, and recreation fields. A 2004 poll found that 58 percent of people who quit smoking in the past 10 years said having smoke-free public places made it easier for them to quit [3].


In November of 2003, Solana Beach, California, became the first municipality in the United States to pass a law banning smoking on the beach. The successful passage was the result of the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth's efforts to collaborate with other coalitions and the City of Solana Beach.


In 2002, the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth proposed Solana Beach Ordinance #316 to ban smoking on all beaches. Throughout the following year, the Alliance worked closely with the Tobacco-free Communities Coalition of San Diego County and the American Lung Association to earn the support of the community and the City Council. The San Dieguito Alliance, comprised of mostly high school students, collected and counted the number of cigarette butts on the city's beaches, conducted a public opinion survey of beach-goers, and presented City Council members on multiple occasions. On the day of the City Council's vote on the Ordinance, the Alliance brought representatives from six or more community organizations to demonstrate the community's support. The City Council voted unanimously in favor of passing the smoke-free beaches ordinance.


While difficult, the passage of smoke-free laws and ordinances for public spaces is possible. To do this, the community must come together to convince other citizens and the local governing body that it is best for people as well as good for the environment. Three actions were key to the San Dieguito Alliance's success in passing the smoke-free beaches ordinance passed:

  • The collection and presentation of sentiments of the people who use the beach, by conducting a public opinion survey
  • The presentation of evidence to the City Council members through the collection of cigarette butts left on the beach
  • Collaboration with other local community organizations to provide a broad spectrum of support

[1] Chapman, S.  (2000)  Banning smoking outdoors is seldom ethically justifiable.  Tobacco Control 9(1): 95-97

[2] Repace, J. (2000) Banning outdoor smoking is scientifically justifiable.  Tobacco Control 9(1) and Bloch M, & Shopland DR.  (2000)  Outdoor smoking bans: more than meets the eye.  Tobacco Control 9(1)

[3] Gilpin, E. A., Lee, L., & Pierce, J.P. (2005).  How have smoking risk factors changed with recent declines in California adolescent smoking?  Addiction 100(1): 117-125

Reference: City of Solana Beach , California