Thanks to new law, local governments now have the right to ban smoking on Florida beaches

No Smoking Sign – Courtesy: Shutterstock – Image by Bokeh Blur Background

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Friday authorizing local governments to prohibit smoking on public Florida parks and beaches.

Local leaders will now have complete jurisdiction in regulating smoking at beaches. This includes stricter laws on cigarette disposal, the creation of designated smoking areas, fines, and even an outright ban.

There is one exception to this rule: smoking unfiltered cigars.

Named the “Florida Clean Air Act,” its goal is to protect the public from secondhand smoke’s various health hazards, according to the Florida Senate’s bill summary.

In the bill summary, smoking is described as “inhaling, exhaling, burning, carrying, or possessing any lighted tobacco product, including cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, and any other lighted tobacco product.”

The Ocean Conservancy showed its enthusiasm for the new bill in a press release on Friday. For over 31 years, cigarette butts have been the most common type of litter found on Florida beaches during its annual “International Coastal Cleanup.”

“This is a major victory for the health of our beaches and seas throughout the Sunshine State,” Jon Brooker, director of Florida Conservation at Ocean Conservancy, said in a statement. “Cigarette butts may be small, but they have a lasting, harmful effect on our environment.”

Cigarette butts are the fourth most dangerous type of plastic to sea life according to the Ocean Conservancy. Animals including turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals can accidentally ingest the small butts, which contaminate waters.

Cigarette butts greatly add to the microplastic problem in wildlife as they are comprised of tightly packed fibers that disintegrate into even smaller pieces and accumulate in fish and other marine organisms. This hurts animals as well as humans who consume sick fish.

State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota has attempted to get the anti-smoking proposal into law for several years. Although the bill did not move forward in the Senate, Gruters emphasized the need to get “butts off the beach” earlier this year.

“We want freedom but at the same time, we want quiet and peaceful enjoyment of families being able to go out there and go to the beach without putting their hands in the sand and picking up some of these cigarette butts,” he said.

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