Park smoking restrictions bill headed to the House floor

Thad Altman said the bill should protect children from second-hand smoke.

Legislation allowing local governments to regulate smoking at city and county parks and beaches will head to the House floor.

The House Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday unanimously advanced a bill (HB 105) granting local governments the right to restrict smoking and vaping on public parks they own. The legislation also would allow regulation of smoking within 25 feet of most business entrances.

Rep. Thad Altman, an Indialantic Republican and one of the prime sponsors of the bill, said the protection of children from secondhand smoke gives governments compelling reasons to limit smoking.

“This will mostly help children and provide smoke-free zones in our parks and our beaches,” he said.

The legislation grants governments the power to regulate tobacco use through an amendment of the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act, which would be renamed the Florida Clean Air Act should the bill become law. The statute dates back to a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2002 that prohibited smoking in most indoor public settings.

“I was here when we implemented the constitutional amendment to provide smoke-free workplaces and I was involved as our local president of the Lung Association in the constitutional amendment that passed by over 70%,” Altman said. “One thing that we did do, we preempted everything to the state but we have a precedent. We did allow school boards to provide smoke free zones for their faculty and gave them jurisdictional opportunities.”

Local governments in the past have tried to regulate smoking at beaches. But a 2013 court ruling involving a ban on smoking in Sarasota parks made clear that only the state can regulate outdoor smoking.

Fine stressed this bill won’t bar smoking at all parks and beaches, but will allow local governments to enact ordinances that fit for their own communities. That likely will result in smoking areas in many parks.

Local governments spoke up in favor of the legislation.

“For the health and safety of our children, please vote ‘yes,’” said Mark Ryan, city manager of Indian Harbour Beach.

The Senate companion bill (SB 224), sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters, also has cleared all committees and awaits a vote on the Senate floor.

In the upper chamber, the legislation has been amended to allow vaping and smoking of cigars without plastic tips. That’s based on the fact those products don’t leave cigarette butts, the most littered item on Florida beaches.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].

One comment

  • Lynda

    February 17, 2022 at 1:47 pm

    As I recall the reason the all powerful state legislature took on smoking regulations outdoors was because “tourists” were too easily confused by local regulations. Evidently the legislature believes those who visit Florida are unable to read signs or other notices. I remind them not every state values education as little as places in Florida.

    As someone who is allergic to smoking of cigarettes, pipes and cigars, I would not like to see Florida’s beaches turned into vast “Smoking allowed here” spaces. Aside from the nasty litter left by many who now smoke on beaches without designated spaces, smoke does not stay near the lungs of the smoker; it travels on breezes to the noses and lungs of those who do not like the smell of smoke and those who are harmed by second-hand smoke.

    Generally, I approve of more local control of quality of life issues. Tourists (especially with children) will not continue to come to beaches or other outdoor attractions which are dirty and where smoking is the rule. Simple economics will persuade local governments, clean healthy beaches and attractions are the best way to attract Tourist dollars and therefore jobs.

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