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No-smoking forces taking new territory: the beach

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Ten years after California set a national precedent by banning smoking in restaurants and bars - and months after prohibiting it within feet of government buildings and playgrounds - many of the state's coastal cities are now banning smoking at the beach.

Health and environmental officials say the moves are a logical extension of smoking bans in other public places and are necessary to meet state and federal antipollution requirements.

Some legislators, however, fear the government is prying too far into private lives, with unnecessary and overly puritanical dictums.

Solana Beach was the first California city to ban smoking at the beach when it enacted its prohibition last September. San Clemente imposed a similar ban last week. Santa Monica is likely to follow suit Tuesday, and Encinitas may vote on the issue within a month.

With the momentum of early victories, antismoking activists are taking their arguments to other coastal cities, from San Diego to Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, and beyond.

Los Angeles is also drafting a no-smoking ordinance for Venice, Dockweiler, Will Rogers, and Cabrillo beaches.

"This is really a very basic issue, which is that the community is standing up to protect its youth and citizens from tobacco smoke and litter," says Judy Strang, executive director of Youth Tobacco Prevention Corps, a group of teen activists that set the legislation in motion two years ago at Solana Beach.

The group, which seeks smoke-free beaches, parks, and recreational areas, approached three city councils in 2002 for provisional one-week bans.

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