Florida Bill Seeks to Restrict Smoking at Beaches and Parks
The regulation of smoking in public spaces is once again being considered in the Florida legislature. Florida Senate Bill 224 and companion House Bill 105 are being filed for the fourth year in a row. If passed, city governments would be able to regulate smoking in public beaches and parks.
Michael Beedie is the city manager for Fort Walton Beach and a longtime proponent of the bill. He is confident the bill will pass.
“We think we can get it over the finish line this year.”
Beedie has been working with the Florida League of Cities to push it through the legislature.
“When we started looking at prohibiting smoking in some of our parks, we figured out that the statute didn’t allow that. We also figured out around that time that other cities were having the same issue. So we went to the Florida League of Cities. They were very supportive and helped us start the process back then. This bill is something we've been supportive of over the last three years.”
Beedie hopes the fourth time's the charm, and believes that support has grown enough for the bill to pass.
“We’ve gotten support on both the house and senate side in the years past, but it's never gotten to the governor's desk to sign. So we are hoping that this year it gets a little further in the process and gets through the legislature and to the governor so we can sign it into law and allow local governments to regulate smoking on their properties.”
Beedie’s goal is to protect the health of the public spaces the city has worked to create and maintain.
“In Fort Walton Beach, we have a lot of public parks, over 20, and a huge athletic complex where we host tournaments throughout the year. We’ve invested a lot of taxpayer dollars into those amenities.”
According to Beedie, smoking has caused a lot of headaches for those in public parks and properties.
“One of the biggest complaints we get from citizens or visitors here for tournaments is that they’ll be watching kids play sports in bleachers or chairs but right next to them there is someone smoking. You know, blowing the second-hand smoke in their face or out on the field.”
Beedie emphasized that this legislation wouldn’t ban all smoking, but instead regulate where smokers can indulge.
“We want to have the ability to create either smoke-free zones at these properties and parks or just make designated smoking areas so everybody can enjoy the properties, the parks, the waterfronts, and the athletic complexes without having to worry about second-hand smoke.”
Additionally, city employees who clean and manage parks will be able to spend less time cleaning up cigarette butts.
“Our parks crew spend a lot of time going through the parks and picking up cigarette butts and disposing of them. If we can create designated smoking areas then that reduces the amount of time they are going to have to spend cleaning that stuff up. They can concentrate on making sure the grass is cut, the bathrooms are stocked, and the holiday decorations are up.”
The sponsors of SB 224 and HB 105 are Sen. Joe Gruters and Reps. Randy Fine and Thad Altman respectively. Beedie has faith in these sponsors to carry the bill to victory in 2022.
“Each year it's gotten a little further in the process, so we are hoping that trend continues. The sponsors on both sides this year are pretty good when it comes to influence in the legislature.”
To Beedie, this legislation is long overdue for the health of both citizens and the environment.
“It is a better use of time, a reduction of pollution, and a reduction of trash in the area.”