Despite recent reports, Gov. Ron DeSantis has not yet signed a bill that would allow local governments to ban smoking on public beaches and in parks.
With the bill’s fate still uncertain, some local government officials on the First Coast are urging DeSantis to sign it into law. Lawmakers have been trying to allow local governments to further restrict smoking in public areas for years now.
State Representative Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay), who sponsored this year’s bill, said it’s not just beaches at issue.
“Right now, you’re allowed to smoke on the jungle gym or in the dugout at the little league game and you can smoke anywhere on any beach in Florida. I think some amount of regulation by local governments is reasonable,” said Fine.
This is the first year the bill cleared the state legislature.
Throughout the years, Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser has been a supporter of the bill.
She took us to a park near Atlantic Beach City Hall where she explained the city can’t even legally put up a no-smoking sign.
“We have young children in parks and in this playground behind me and we have no ability to regulate smoking, even in a zone as small as that,” said Glasser.
But if DeSantis puts pen to paper, local governments will be able to limit and even ban smoking in public parks and on public beaches, though there is a carveout for unfiltered cigars.
Glasser said parks are a no-brainer for her, but deciding how to best deal with smoking on beaches will require more public input.
“I think it’s a big conversation that we need to have, and I’ve been out on cleanups and collected thousands of cigarette butts. They’re everywhere. They’re hiding in plain sight and I just think if we’re going to take care of our environment, this is the way to do it,” said Glasser.
Atlantic Beach local Karen McRoberts would be happy to see smoking limited on the beach.
“I think they should make a place where they can smoke, but not on the beach around people because there are children out here too,” said McRoberts.
Others like Welby Cox, who was visiting his grandchildren in town on Wednesday, don’t see it as a big issue but aren’t against it.
“If there’s a majority of people who don’t want it here, they shouldn’t have it,” said Cox.
But community members will only have a say if DeSantis sign off.
It is not clear which way he may go.
In the past, DeSantis vetoed a bill that would have prohibited local governments from banning plastic straws, but the following year he signed off on a bill prohibiting local governments from banning certain sunscreens.
DeSantis has until July 2 to act on this bill.
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