Oregon considers limits on smoking at state parks

Oregon considers limits on smoking at state parks
FILE - Even in places where there are no waterfalls, the scenery at Silver Falls State Park is outstanding, near Silverton Ore. (AP File Photo/ Statesman Journal, Zach Urness)

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is contemplating a rule to ban smoking out in the open air on hiking trails, picnic areas, waysides and common areas of state campgrounds.

Spokesman Chris Havel said on Wednesday that the agency is following through on a 2012 executive order from the governor to reduce the public's exposure to secondhand smoke by Dec. 31, 2014.

Havel added that a smoking ban would also help limit discarded cigarette butts.

"An outright prohibition on smoking in all outdoor areas of a park — that is not workable, it is not reasonable, and it really doesn't meet any state park goals," he said from Salem. "This is helping us control a problem with plastic pollution — cigarette butts. People drop them. They just don't go away. They are a significant problem in some areas."

A series of public hearings is scheduled in the second week of January, and the parks commission is to take up the issue at its February meeting. The rule wouldn't take effect until 2015.

The proposed ban would not apply to designated personal campsites or the beach, which is managed by state parks. People could also smoke in their cars and camping units. Fines would be between $60 and $110, though warnings are more likely, parks spokesman Richard Walkoski said.

Surfrider Foundation would like to see the smoking ban extended to beaches.

"Cigarette butts are the No. 1 item we consistently find in our beach cleanups," said Gus Gates, Oregon policy manager for the organization. "We think this is a pretty reasonable way to get at a pretty chronic source of marine debris."

He noted that cigarette filters don't decompose, and break down into tiny plastic particles that have become a growing problem in ocean ecosystems.

Smoking is already banned in parks in 56 cities, counties and county fairs across Oregon.

Last October, a judge ordered the state of New York to stop enforcing its smoking ban in parks, saying it was not based on any policy set by the Legislature.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.