New Florida law OKs smoking bans at public beaches, parks

Southeast

FILE – This March 28, 2019, file photo shows cigarette butts in an ashtray in New York (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law Friday allowing counties and municipal governments to restrict smoking on public beaches and in public parks.

Under the legislation, House Bill 105 or Senate Bill 224, local governments can create rules and ordinances limiting or outright banning smoking on public beaches and in public parks. The only exception is “unfiltered cigars” or if the additional restrictions “conflict with county ordinances,” when the smaller government drafts the new regulation.

In a statement released by the Ocean Conservancy following passage of the bill, the organization said cigarette butts “have been the most commonly found item on Florida beaches during Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanup.”

With the potential bans now legalized, and up to local governments to pursue, the Ocean Conservancy called the new law a “major victory for the health of our beaches and seas throughout the Sunshine State.”

The organization said that cigarette butts contribute to problems facing oceans as a result of microplastics. Cigarette butts, made of “tightly packed plastic fibers that erode into smaller bits” can build up in fish and other sea creatures over time, as a form of “pervasive” pollution.

“Ocean Conservancy research has found cigarette butts to be the fourth most harmful type of plastic to marine life due to ingestion and contamination,” the Ocean Conservancy said. “This hurts our seabirds, sea turtles, and marine mammals.”

The newly signed law takes effect July 1.

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