Clearing Tobacco Smoke on OC Beaches Closer

Despite the Commission debut of
Political Hack Matt Cunningham

Last night the Orange County Harbors Beaches and Parks Commission took a positive step in protecting the health of both the environment and visitors to County owned beaches. In a 4-3 vote the Commission reversed their position from December 2005 to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that Orange County beaches join those operated by the cities of San Clemente, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach and Seal Beach as tobacco smoke free zones.

During the 10 months since the Commission took up this issue a few things have changed. First the California Air Resources Board has classified tobacco smoke as a toxic air contaminate in both indoor and outdoor settings. Second, the U.S. Surgeon General has reported that second-hand tobacco smoke is a health hazard in any quantity or level of exposure. These new facts, combined with the existing environmental data about the effects of tobacco litter and the effectiveness of the regulations in other cities in reducing litter provided the necessary impetus to move four of the seven commissioners to recommend the proposal of a county ordinance.

The meeting last night was of particular significance of another reason, that has nothing to do with environmental and public health. It was the first meeting for new member Matt Cunningham (aka Jubal) of the Red County/OC Blog. On October 2nd, Matt asked the readers of the Red County/ OC Blog to provide him input on the issue. From his comments, Matt made it seem like he was genuinely looking for feedback on the issue and that he would approach the topic with an open mind, weigh the facts, and choose a position. While that is what a Commission member is supposed to do, when that commissioner is a political hack, logic and facts don’t matter.

Simply put, Matt was not interested in the facts or the public good. Rather than focus on protecting the rights of people who have respiratory problems and those who find tobacco smoke disgusting, Matt had a problem with whether or not tobacco litter was an actual threat to marine life. Since he felt that the data was insufficient to support such a finding, he apparently concluded that no regulations were needed. In reaching his decision he claimed that although he had Asthma as a child and has four children that “it comes down to liberty.” Matt raised the tired and old argument that if someone’s tobacco smoke is bothering him he just asks the person to snuff out their smoke or move away.

Similar to the way President Bush, his administration, and the Republican leadership in Congress ignore the facts on everything, as well as cover for child predators, in order to support their political goals, Matt Cunningham chose to ignore the facts rather than do the right thing. Overall, a shameful performance for his first meeting and about what I expected from a conservative political hack.

  20 comments for “Clearing Tobacco Smoke on OC Beaches Closer

  1. October 6, 2006 at 9:42 am

    wow, i feel much better knowing that jubal is protecting our liberty. do you think he’ll come out in favor of people’s liberty to smore the mary jane? or for gay folks liberty when they get married?

    or is he just a disengenous ass?

  2. October 6, 2006 at 9:58 am

    I saw Jubal’s post on OC Blog/Red County/whatever the heck they want to call themselves now.

    Now I must say that I’ve been personally torn on this issue in the past. I’m usually a staunch civil libertarian, and I usually do not appreciate governmental intrusion upon personal lives…
    And then I thought about it some more.

    Scientific studies have concluded that second-hand smoke is just as dangerous as smoking one’s own cigarette. Also, most smokers tend to dump their butts in the sand… And when these butts accumulate, the beach turns into one giant ash tray! (I’ve seen it firsthand… Last year while I was at school, I went to San Diego’s Ocean Beach… My goodness, that is one giant ash tray by the sea!) We need to remember that these beaches belong to ALL OF US IN OC, not just the few smokers. ALL OF US have a right to a clean, well-kept beach. ALL OF US have a right to breathe non-carcinogenic air.

    This is why I’ll be happy WHEN the county joins nearly all the beach cities in keeping cigarettes away from the beach.

  3. October 6, 2006 at 11:54 am

    Can’t we just ban tobacco? It’s more addictive than cocaine and it responsible for billions in healthcare costs anually. Or can we at least stop subsidizing tobacco companies? My dad smoked three packs a day and while growing up, I second-handed two packs a day and my lung capacity is not what it could be.

    Serrach, don’t mistake liberty with morality. It’s always about liberty is one is not personally outraged about it. Matt has 4 daughters (I have one) per his webiste for Pacific Strategies. If its ok to have someone’s poisonous byproduct float in his girl’s lungs, that’s his call.

    Likewise, if Steven Greenhut’s house catches fire, I’m sure he’d believe the firefighters who show up couldn’t be paid enough.

    Nothing is worse than someone puffing while we’re in line at Angels Stadium or at Disneyland.

    I’d like to see local law enforcement writing tickets for smokers who toss their butts in the sand.

  4. October 6, 2006 at 2:21 pm

    Chris:

    You mean you were there, and you didn’t say hi? Oh, my feelings are hurt.

  5. October 6, 2006 at 2:33 pm

    BTW, Chris — what I asked for was “informed reader feedback on the various facts, figures and studies cited” in the staff report.

    And I’m sorry if you are offended that I asked staff to back up and clarify some of the figures in the staff report.

    For example, Sup. Wilson — who’s proposing this ban — claimed in his letter that thousands of marine animals swallow cigarette butts. I ask for a more precise number. Staff was unable to provide me with any number.

    Another example, the staff report cited a claim that cigarette butts will contaminate the groundwater as a reason for banning smoking on county beaches. I asked staff if there was groundwater under county beaches. The response was no.

    Oh God — I’m such a hack!

    Would you prefer I just haul out a rubber stamp and sign off on whatever staff comes up with?

  6. October 6, 2006 at 2:51 pm

    Matt —
    You will do whatever the GOP asks you to do.

  7. Jubal
    October 6, 2006 at 3:14 pm

    Dan:

    There you go with those psychic powers again! You’re amazing!

  8. October 6, 2006 at 6:01 pm

    well you don’t exactly have to be Miss Cleo to figure that one out…

    but nice job on all the Rudat saga. But you never did answer the question if Ann Coulter should face charges for voting where she wasn’t registered……

  9. October 6, 2006 at 6:45 pm

    Dan:

    1) I don’t do whatever the GOP “tells me to do” (whatever that means) anymore than you do whatever the Demo Part “tells you to do. The difference being I would never level that accusation at you.

    2) I haven’t responded to your Coulter question yet because I haven’t had time. I could spend an entire day just responding to comments on my blog and others.

  10. October 6, 2006 at 6:45 pm

    Ok Matt (Jubal), Let’s break this down.

    1. You cite Wilson’s letter that claims “thousands of marine animals swallow cigarette butts” and that you asked for more specific numbers. I believe that Supervisor Wilson should have said hundreds of species of marine animals in his statement. The California Fish and Game Commission website (http://www.fgc.ca.gov/mlma/appendix/h.html) identifies “544 species of fish from 144 families, thousands of species of marine invertebrates inhabit the sea floor from tide pools along the shoreline to muddy plains 8,000 feet deep, and dozens of species of coastal and offshore birds spend some part of the year in California’s waters, as do 35 species of marine mammals.” While the number is not “thousands”, it is well-documented scientific fact that marine animals consume trash, including cigarette litter, in many instances resulting in the death of the animal. Are you suggesting that if the number of species is not in the thousands that there is no problem?

    2. You indicate that the staff cited a claim that cigarette butts will contaminate the groundwater as a reason for banning smoking on county beaches. I’ve looked over the report that you posted on your blog and there is no reference to ground water. The report does include a bullet point on the Smoke-Free Orange County Beaches fact sheet under environmental factors stating that; Tobacco litter leaches toxic substances into the water and sediment, containing the food supply or directly killing small animals.” You said that you asked if there was groundwater under county beaches and the answer was no. My guess is that the response was based upon a conclusion that you were asking about groundwater in the sense of the type we draw from wells and consume. There is groundwater under the beaches, specifically seawater and, since I know you to possess at least some intelligence, I’m sure you already knew that. The staff report was not referring to groundwater; it was referring to the marine water along the coastline.

    My issue here is that you asked questions with the clear intent to poke holes in the staff report and therefore the need to establish smoke-free county beaches rather than to seek information and or clarification. You failed to accept that the facts clearly demonstrate a public health threat resulting from exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke. You failed to dutifully consider the prior recommendation of the NPDES Trash and Debris Task Force that Orange County Beaches be made tobacco-smoke free. You overlooked the testimony of the several residents who took the time to address the Commission on the issue, none of whom spoke against it. You disregarded the liberty and rights of the vast majority of Orange County residents who do not smoke to enjoy the beach free from the harmful effects of tobacco smoke.

    Matt I support liberty and freedom from needless government regulations. What I do not support is your premise that the rights of an individual to jeopardize their own health by smoking should trump my right to not be exposed to their second-hand smoke or their cigarette butts under my toes when I visit a public beach.

    Matt, while you may believe that the Board of Sups will extinguish the establishment of smoke-free beaches in Orange County, I’m not so sure Silva is so solid against the proposal. Jeff Overley at Total Buzz Blog points out that Supervisor Silva wasn’t too fond of the plan, wondering (and I’ll paraphrase) how outdoor secondhand smoke could be a cancer threat while bonfires are blamed for nothing but burnt marshmallows.

    Jeff forgot to mention that only one county owned beach has fire pits, Capistrano Beach. As far as an argument against the proposal, it just a hollow sound bite with no relationship to fact. Furthermore, fire pits are in fixed location; if you don’t want to be around that smoke you know where to go. Absent an ordinance regarding tobacco smoke, non-smokers have nowhere to be free of the public health hazard of tobacco smoke. I do suppose that you could lift the regulation in the immediate area of fire pits, but the reality is that cigarette smoke contains different toxins than wood smoke, and therefore less of a cancer risk.

  11. October 6, 2006 at 6:55 pm

    Chris:

    Different people can be in possession of the same information and reach different conclusions. I don’t think the “facts” presented warranted the ordinance. It’s one thing to be inside an office and inhale a co-workers cigarrette smoke. It’s another thing to be share an entire beach — essentially a giant air conditioner — with a few smokers.

    I thought the litter considerations had validity. I think the “health threat” of smoking on the beach is phony.

    As I said, maybe you will be happier if next time I simply nod and smile as the staff report is presented, and robotically vote for the staff recommendation. Would want anyone to ask questions, would we?

    Obviously, we have a difference of opinion. You apparently cannot abide that and resort to name-calling instead.

  12. October 6, 2006 at 7:40 pm

    One of my most valued repeatable experiences in life is having a cigarette at the beach or on a pier.

    It’s not fair that that experience should be torn away from me, especially considering that I don’t blow smoke at people or throw cigarette butts all over the place.

    I think that anti-litter laws would be sufficient, and those should be enforced. But there’s plenty of beach for all of us to enjoy, smokers or otherwise.

  13. October 6, 2006 at 7:56 pm

    Knowing Matt (as I don’t) I suspect he knew exactly how everyone was going to vote ahead of time. Thus he was safe in his opposition vote, taking the position of the courageous sticks-to-his-principles kind of guy, the pseudo-martyr who’s not afraid to make unpopular votes.

    Note: the above statement relies on the assumption that Matt has principles.

  14. October 6, 2006 at 9:49 pm

    Alex:

    I barely even know my fellow commissioners, so I didn’t know how the vote was going to come out. I knew Jerry King was already supporting it, and figured Cathy Greren would as well. Debbie Cook voted against it last time, but changed her vote this time.

    It didn’t matter to me if I was going to be at the losing end of a 7-1 vote, or if the 6 other commissioners voted my way. I don’t have a martyr complex. I vote the way I believe.

    Any other theories you’d like to throw out?

  15. October 6, 2006 at 9:54 pm

    Evolution and Occam’s Razor. That’s about it.

  16. October 6, 2006 at 11:24 pm

    Hey Matt — Thanks for spelling the last night right on your blog roundup.

  17. October 7, 2006 at 9:30 am

    Matt, you said in an earlier post…

    “I thought the litter considerations had validity. I think the “health threat” of smoking on the beach is phony.”

    I’m curious, what level of expertise do you have that qualifies you to dispute the U. S. Surgeon General’s conclusions that second-hand smoke in any quantity or level of exposure is a health risk? What level of expertise do you have that qualifies you to dispute the California Air Resources Board determination that Cigarette smoke, is a toxic air contaminate with no safe level of exposure?

    Matt you asked, “maybe you will be happier if next time I simply nod and smile as the staff report is presented, and robotically vote for the staff recommendation.” The answer is no.

    I’d be happier if you recognized the findings of experts in your consideration of proposals instead of taking the lazy approach of dismissing facts you don’t like.

    The proposal presented to you did not ride solely on any one point or finding. The proposal to establish smoke-free beaches is founded on the entire body of data covering both environmental and public health considerations.

    The needs of the many to be liberated from involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke and litter outweigh the need of the few who produce that smoke and litter. If you were actually concerned about people’s liberty, you should have supported the proposal.

    Liberty is not a sound bite to be used to dispute the need for regulations that protect public and environmental health.

  18. October 7, 2006 at 11:20 am

    Chris:

    Real quick: I plan to enjoy my weekend with my family rather than respond to your condescending comments. That can wait until after the weekend.

    I’ll just say this for now: you approach this issue as if the matieral presented to us — not all of which was even relevant to the circumstance of smoking on the beach — allowed for no other action but to ban smoking.

    I part company with you there. There are alternatives to a ban. You may not like the alternatives, but that doesn’t mean they do not exist. Disagreeing with Chris Prevatt doesn’t make a person lazy, stupid or a hack.

  19. October 7, 2006 at 9:36 pm

    once again jubal ducks an important point.

    are the health issues of second hand smoke “phony?”

    gosh..is there a santa claus?

  20. October 9, 2006 at 9:16 am

    Matt — a response; I’m not tied in with the Democratic Party in any official capacity; my business does not rely on political campaigns. I derive no income from being a liberal. The only line I tow is my own. Your business is dependent on the Republican Party and while I’m sure that you will buck the trend from time to time, your loyalties are with the GOP. It’s always a fun debate, isn’t it?

Comments are closed.