St. Petersburg leaders to discuss smoking ban at city parks, beaches

St. Petersburg city council members are getting ready to meet Thursday morning, and among the newsworthy agenda items they'll be discussing is smoking restrictions for parks and beaches within the city's limits.

District 6 Representative Gina Driscoll is requesting a referral from council members to the Health, Energy, Resilience and Sustainability Committee, which she also chairs. If approved, the referral would pave the way for a discussion on restricting smoking.

The HERS committee deliberates and makes recommendations on policies relating to St. Petersburg’s sustainability initiatives including energy efficiency, recycling, green infrastructure, alternative energy sources, climate, and environmental protection.

Earlier this summer, a new law took effect in Florida allowing cities and counties to ban smoking at their beaches and parks if elected leaders choose to do so. Republican state senator Joe Gruters fought for the bill, citing the litter caused by cigarette butts along with the second-hand smoke families often experience.

MORE: Florida cities and counties can ban smoking at beaches

"There’s nothing more disgusting than when you put your hand in the sand, and you pull it out, and you feel that cigarette butt," Gruters told reporters shortly after the bill was signed into law in late June.

If the city of St. Pete takes action on the matter, a smoking ban would affect several public beaches, including Egmont Key, Fort Desoto, Maximo Beach, Spa Beach, and North Shore Beach, along with Saint Pete Municipal Beach. The city also has more than 150 parks which additionally could come under a potential smoking ban.

Outside the Tampa Bay region, Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Lake Worth Beach, and Delray Beach have all considered measures to ban smoking at beaches. Locally, Sarasota has also taken up the issue, with no final decision made.

The city council meeting gets underway at 9. You can stream it here