New Florida Law Allows Smoking Bans at Beaches

By Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Florida.
June 20, 2022 Updated: June 20, 2022

PUNTA GORDA, Fla.–Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation on June 17 that allows local leaders to restrict or even ban smoking on Florida’s public beaches and in public parks.

Passed with near-unanimous approval by the state legislature in March, HB 105 will take effect on July 1.

Designed to build on the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act (FCIAA), the law’s purpose is to protect people from the health hazards of secondhand tobacco smoke and vaping, according to the Florida Department of Health website. In November 2002, 71 percent of Florida’s citizens voted for a constitutional amendment to prohibit smoking in all enclosed indoor workplaces.

The smoke-free law became effective on July 1, 2003. Beginning on July 1, 2019, electronic vapor products were included in the FCIAA and have been prohibited in indoor workplaces, the website states.

The legislation signed by the governor renames the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act as the Florida Clean Air Act and “expressly authorizes counties and municipalities to restrict smoking within the boundaries of any of the public beaches and public parks they own.” The one exception is that local governments won’t be able to prevent “the smoking of unfiltered cigars.”

The new law is expected to result in cleaner air, parks, and seas, with restricted smoking zones, more stringent rules for disposing of cigarette butts, and possible fines for violations.

Cigarette butts don’t biodegrade quickly, the legislation’s sponsor, state Sen. Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, said when explaining his intention behind the measure.

“If you live near a beach, the No. 1 picked-up item consistently on an annual basis over and over again are cigarette butts,” Gruters said during the legislative session. “What happens all the time is this second-hand smoke, to me it is disgusting. But what’s even more disgusting is when you reach into the sand and pick up one of those butts. And those filters that are in the cigarettes are what ends up in the water, destroying the environment.”

State Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Democrat representing Miami-Dade, objected to the legislation on the grounds that it’s “discriminatory.”

“When you can have five guys sitting around smoking fat cigars and one black kid over here smoking a Black & Mild, and the cop can go and exercise probable cause on that person and has to ignore the five, you have a problem,” Pizzo said during a state Senate debate in March.

Florida beaches already have their own rules and requirements, but most are in line with one another. Daytona is the only beach in the state where you can drive your vehicle, but you must adhere to a strict 10 mph speed limit or pay a fine of $116.

While some beaches allow pets and have pet-friendly areas of the beach, others prohibit them altogether, except for service animals. Beachgoers are asked to respect wildlife, especially sea turtles and their nests. Most beaches don’t allow alcohol or glass containers.

Jannis Falkenstern is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Florida.