Salute to the City of Irvine for their willingness (or courage) to go towards a citywide smoking ban in public places. This is a much needed effort in the Newport Bay watershed to save the ocean. Yes, smoking is an environmental issue too.
Cigarette butts are the No. 1 litter item according to Coastal Cleanup Day data. “The chemicals from just one filtered cigarette butt had the ability to kill fish living in a one-liter bucket of water,” according to San Diego State University.
You may wonder how cigarette butts (or trash) on the Irvine streets could kill fish. There’re many ways trash can get into the ocean: through storm drains, by rain or wind into waterways, etc. Since most of the litter items are plastics, including filtered cigarette butts, once they get into the ocean, they’re there forever.
How much trash could get into the waterways? A lot that in 2017, California Water Boards implemented trash provisions: all Cities and Counties must significantly reduce trash entering waterways. Newport Beach says about 80 percent of the trash in the bay is from upstream, is working on a multi-million-dollar project in San Diego Creek by the Irvine border, using a water wheel to capture trash. So far, the focus of the agencies in this watershed has been trash capture, not trash reduction. Each has its own cost: the former is tax dollars; the latter is politics.
In the South County watershed, Laguna Beach and Dana Point banned public smoking citywide in 2017. The most common opposing reason was “freedom to smoke.” Let’s not confuse freedom with self-centeredness. Freedom, as explained by Fr. James Martin in The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, is “the freedom to become the person you’re meant to be, to love and to accept love, to make good decisions, and to experience the beauty of creation.”
Two years later, on Oct. 11, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 8 to ban smoking in state parks and on state beaches. Senator Steve Glazer, who introduced the bill, said, “This bill will provide a cleaner, safer, and healthier environment for people, fish and wildlife. . . Many forest fires have been caused by discarded cigarettes and this bill can help there too.”
Next, Irvine, hopefully. On Oct. 22, city council will have the first reading of the citywide public smoking ban ordinance. This effort has taken its time, and met its opponents. If you’re an Irvine resident or business, feel strongly about the ban one way or another, come at 5PM. Let’s exchange thoughts thoroughly and mindfully before the council votes. Or, you may email your thoughts to the council (firstname.lastname@example.org).
For now, on behalf everyone who wants to stay healthy and safe, including fish, I’d like to say: Thank you, Irvine!
Jennifer Kim, Age 13
Through my research of ocean pollution, I was shocked by the sheer number of trash thrown away into the sea, as well as the thousands of dead fish from oil spills in the ocean. The pollution is symbolized by a sick-looking fish with a soda can body, to represent “sashimi” on the plate that the food we eat ends up on. Around it are garnishes for the “sashimi” which are trash, such as cigarette butts, plastic water bottles, and so on. The “soy sauce” is made of petroleum, and there are “lemon” garnishes of old tires. I used acrylic paint to emphasize the fish along with several other “garnishes” on watercolor. Around the plate are old articles concerning pollution. I named this piece “Trashimi” to reflect on the items from the sea that we will eventually consume, but also as “Trashme” because the trash that we humans throw away just come back to us in a cycle.
Hoiyin Ip is an environmental activist.
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