Sen. Joe Gruters rekindled his effort to restrict smoking on Florida’s top beaches.
“Time to get the butts off the beach!” Gruters told Florida Politics. It’s not the sandy fannies immortalized on many a Florida postcard, but the tobacco products that so often end up discarded in the sand.
Specifically, the Sarasota Republican filed legislation (SB 334) that would authorize cities and counties to restrict smoking on public beaches and to prohibit smoking in state parks.
He said the legislation would make a better environment for beach-goers, but also deliver economic benefits to the state.
“Not only will we allow families the quiet enjoyment of not reaching into the sand and pulling out a cigarette butt or having to breathe second-hand smoke,” Gruters said, “Dr. Beach gives bonuses for smoke-free beaches and it is a huge economic driver. We want our beaches ranked so we can continue to help our tourism market.”
It’s not a new issue for the Senator, who represents Siesta Key, one of the top-rated beaches in the nation. That’s a beach that has topped the Dr. Beach rankings, compiled by Florida Atlantic University professor Stephen Leatherman.
In the past, Sarasota County outlawed smoking on the white sandy beach, but a court ruled the county could not legally put such restrictions in place when Florida law allows smoking in most outdoor spaces.
Gruters last year sponsored a similar bill that unanimously cleared the Community Affairs Committee but died in its second committee stop. The year prior, he filed a bill to outlaw smoking on the beach outright statewide but it never received a vote.
The legislation as written now would amend the Florida Clean Air Act to give back decision-making on smoking restrictions at beaches to local governments. For state parks, it would not allow smoking within park boundaries at all.
It would also allow local governments to restrict vaping on the beach.