Oregon moves to ban smoking on beaches

Oregon is taking steps to ban smoking on all 362 miles of ¬Pacific coast beaches.

The move this week by the state Parks and Recreation Department follows an earlier ban on smoking at most other state park properties.

It’s partly a response to concerns that the earlier smoking ban, enacted in February, will push more smokers onto the coastline, said Chris Havel, an agency spokesman. The ban would reduce litter on beaches and ensure consistent rules throughout the state parks system, too, he said.

The agency is taking public comment on the proposal through Aug. 29 and will hold public meetings to discuss it in Seaside, Newport, Coos Bay and Salem.

Smokers could face a $110 fine, although the agency said it prefers to educate visitors and issues citations to the most egregious repeat offenders.

Oregon has about 548 park rangers — about two-thirds of them seasonal — who enforce the rules along the coast and in 224 state parks.

Under the rules enacted earlier this year, smoking is banned on state park property except in a vehicle or campsite, or portions of day-use parks that are designated as safety rest areas.

Rangers have started asking smokers to extinguish cigarettes, but nobody will be ticketed before next year, Havel said.

Gov. John Kitzhaber, a physician, signed an executive order in 2012 mandating that state agencies look at ways to restrict smoking on public property. Smoking outside state buildings has been banned.

Under a 1967 Oregon law, the state controls the entire coast up to the line of vegetation, and the public has free access.

Cigarette butts are the top trash item collected on Oregon beaches by SOLVE, a nonprofit organization that stages two ¬annual coastal cleanups, said Maureen Fisher, ¬executive director.

"Most of the debris picked up by the volunteers consists of either small plastic items or cigarette butts, which both harm marine life in various ways," Fisher said.