Some Florida cities and counties move forward with smoking bans on beaches, parks

Florida cities and counties are snuffing out smoking at beaches and parks to keep cigarette butts away from the sand. Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Pinellas County are a few that are moving forward with smoking bans on beaches. 

Sarasota city leaders are considering news rules to keep cigarette butts off the beaches. An ordinance was before the city commission Tuesday to prohibit smoking cigarettes, filtered cigars, pipes and other devices at public parks and beaches.

"I think the primary protection is from the filters, the fiberglass filters getting in the water in the beach and having you know the repercussions from that," Commissioner Hagen Brody said.

RELATED: Florida cities and counties can ban smoking at beaches

Discarded cigarette butts break down slowly into tiny pieces of plastic.  According to the Ocean Conservancy, they are the No. 1 item found on Florida beaches. 

"These are poisonous to wildlife and as the butts are ingested by birds and fish these chemicals and heavy metals work their way up the food chain," explained Charles Denault with Tobacco Free Partnership for Sarasota County.

The Florida legislature previously preempted local governments from banning smoking, but that changed over the summer with House Bill 105.  It went into effect July 1, allowing counties and municipalities to restrict smoking on public beaches and in parks.

Sarasota is among several communities moving forward with smoking bans, including the City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.

"I’m a frequent user of the parks; my wife and I are often down here walking," shared St. Pete resident John Stewart last month.  "I don’t know why something that pollutes the air and pollutes people should be allowed in the parks."

The one exemption to the ban is unfiltered cigars. Those will still be allowed since they do not have plastic filters.

In some localities if you light up you will pay up. Some critics question the effectiveness of these new rules, saying they will be hard to enforce.

The ordinance in Sarasota passed unanimously, but still needs to come back to the commission for a second reading before approval. It is not clear when that might happen.

In Pinellas County, Commissioners will discuss a potential ban for the first time at a workshop on September 15.