By Judy Wilson | Associate Editor
An issue that has been torpedoed in Tallahassee many times in the past, surfaced again in this year’s legislative session. Both houses voted, overwhelmingly, to give cities and counties the right to ban smoking on local beaches and parks.
Prior to this action, state law preempted it. And the new statute does not compel cities to institute a ban. It only allows it.
The Pompano Beach Commission appears to be the first to be proactive on the matter. On June 28, it voted unanimously to add a smoking ban to an ordinance already prohibiting certain activities on the beach. The ban extends to city parks and county parks within the city’s borders. Violators can incur fines of up to $500 and/or 60 days in jail.
Mayor Rex Hardin gave credit to his city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, saying a beach smoking ban has been on its agenda “for years.”
Several years ago, Wilton Manors commissioners debated a smoking ban in the city’s parks. Ultimately, because the state prohibited bans at the time, the “Thank you for not smoking” signs posted were merely suggestions and not enforceable.
State Rep. Chip La Marca whose district includes Broward’s beaches as far south as State Road 84, was a cosponsor of HB 105 and in 2020 sponsored similar legislation [HB 457] that failed to survive. This week, LaMarca said, “As someone who participated in the Fort Lauderdale Beach Sweep and cleanups on Pompano Beach and Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, this legislation is welcomed by our communities. This is definitely legislation that makes a difference in the quality of our beaches and parks.”
Deerfield Beach Commissioner Todd Drosky alerted his board in June that the new state statute would be effective July 1. Later he said he is working with City Attorney Anthony Soroka to create an ordinance with “reasonable regulations,” adding, “It is in the works . . . in the beginning stages.”
Deerfield Beach Commissioner Mike Hudak, whose district includes the beach, has questions about the state statute which was drafted to address litter and pollution rather than secondhand smoke. So while cities can regulate filtered cigarettes, they cannot ban unfiltered cigarettes or cigars, which unless they have plastic tips, are allowed because they are biodegradable.
Cigarette butts have long been the bane of beach cleanup crews. The Ocean Conservancy reports cigarette butts continue to be the most collected item in beach cleanups.
Hudak said to date none of his constituents have spoken to him about the new statute. He is asking how cigarettes can be banned but not cigars and how any ban could be enforced.
In Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, where the beach is the town’s economic engine, Vice Mayor Ed Mulkoon said an ordinance is being prepared, likely for the July 26 commission meeting. Residents of the town have been vocal on the matter and asking for support of the statute, he said. Commissioners in Lighthouse Point where the beach is not an issue, reacted to the state’s new statute by adopting a smoking ban in its parks Tuesday that includes all types of cigarettes, pipe and vapes.
In 2009, responding to activist Caryl Berner’s request that some section of Deerfield’s beach be “no smoking,” the commission voted to designate the sand between Southeast 6 and Southeast 7 Street as no smoking. The stated policy then was to control “littering and secondhand smoke.”
That attempt was short-lived when in 2010 the city was informed it could not enforce its ordinance. In 2017, the state’s pre-emptive position on the issue was upheld in court when the American Civil Liberties Union sued over a City of Saratoga ban on beach smoking.
The beach is a smoker’s ashtray.
It’s totally disgusting. My daughter and her husband are here for holiday with us and she just text me how bad it is. The cigarette smoke is from whelming. She says I can’t even enjoy the beach.
People who smoke so they have the right to smoke for people who don’t smoke have the right, not to breathe in cancer filled air! Plus there’s cigarettes all over the beach which is disgusting! Please try and make the beaches smoke-free. If you want to smoke a stick of cancer, please go to your car and do it. Both my parents smoked and both of them died of lung cancer and it’s the worst death you ever want to see. Do I have to stand there and watch your father struggle for air as he’s dying? What’s the most upsetting thing I’ve ever seen in my life so please make the beaches smoke-free!