Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Indian Rocks Beach considers $500 fine for littering beach with cigarette butts

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — Smoking and leaving your butts stubbed out in the sand on the city's beach could cost you $500.

That is the fine the City Commission wants to impose in a new litter ordinance it will consider at its Jan. 10 meeting.

The ordinance would not ban smoking. It just prohibits leaving smoking-related litter behind.

After an hour-long workshop with county and state health officials last week, commissioners appeared poised to enact a stiff fine to discourage smoking on the beach.

They stopped short of out-right banning smoking, largely because of a Florida law that currently prevents local governments from enacting smoke-free regulations.

That law did not stop Gulfport, however, which banned smoking last month on its beach, athletic fields and on playgrounds. Violators there face a $97 fine.

Gulfport is also is considering strengthening its litter ordinance to raise those fines $50 to $143 if uncontested and to $188 if contested in court.

The idea for a significantly stiffer fine in Indian Rocks Beach was suggested by City Attorney Maura Kiefer.

"Why not make it a big fine?" Kiefer asked, stressing that the commission has the ability to pass an anti-litter ordinance targeting cigarette butts.

"To me, money talks. It would be a huge deterrent," Kiefer said.

She also strongly recommended that the city pass a resolution in support of two bills being considered by the state Legislature that would allow municipalities to regulate smoking outdoors.

Residents attending the meeting appeared split on whether to regulate smoking on the beach.

Even some non-smokers were opposed to any new regulations. Others agreed with Kiefer that a large fine would sharply reduce the litter on the beach.

• • •

More than 200,000 cigarette butts were picked up on the beaches during a statewide coastal cleanup campaign last year, according to Deborah Shaffer, program manager for the Pinellas County Health Department.

Cigarette butts, often found within 10 feet of a designated ashtray, make up 20 percent of all litter found on Pinellas County's 35 miles of beaches. Eighty percent of the butts end up in the Gulf of Mexico, she said.

"The issue is litter, but it is also health," Shaffer said. "The bottom line is this litter poses a health hazard and costs money."

Each cigarette butt contains 165 different chemicals and can take up to 20 years to degrade, Lucy Gonzalez-Barr, coordinator for Region 7 of the Florida Department of Health, told the commission.

Carolyn Smith, a volunteer with the Pinellas Tobacco-Free Coalition, said 52 Florida municipalities and counties have enacted ordinances and resolutions regulating smoking on the beaches and public places.

"We don't care if people smoke, but we do care if our grandchildren pick up filthy cigarette butts," said Commissioner Terry Hamilton-Wollin, who previously met with residents calling for a smoke-free beach.

She wants another workshop, but the rest of the commission appeared ready to enact the $500 fine for leaving cigarette butts on the beach.

"I am personally interested in some kind of signage with a greater fine," said Mayor R.B. Johnson, asking Kiefer to prepare an ordinance for consideration at the commission's Jan. 10 meeting.

"I think there are a lot of people out there who don't know they (cigarette butts) are not biodegradable — and they do think the beach is an ashtray," Commissioner Cookie Kennedy said.

She called for signs similar to national anti-litter bug campaigns she remembered from her childhood.

But it was Vice Mayor Phil Hanna who drew the most applause and even laughter for his sign idea.

"I see a real cute picture of a family and all you are seeing are little tushies and it says the only butts allowed on the beach are yours," he said.

Indian Rocks Beach considers $500 fine for littering beach with cigarette butts 12/20/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 20, 2011 2:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Gators rally past Kentucky, streak hits 31


    LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the second week in a row, Florida found itself storming the field in a game that came down to the last second. A 57-yard field-goal attempt by Kentucky kicker Austin MacGinnis came just a few feet short of making history and snapping a 30-year losing streak, as the No. 20 Gators escaped a …

    Florida wide receiver Brandon Powell (4) scores a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky.
  2. Pen makes it way too interesting as Rays hang on for 9-6 win


    A couple of home runs provided the news pegs of the night for the Rays, but it was more topical to talk about what nearly happened as they hung on for a 9-6 win over the Orioles.

    Lucas Duda's three-run homer in the third inning was the Rays' record-breaking 217th of the season, as well as his …

  3. An attempt to project what Rays will look like in 2018

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — We know what the Rays look like this year: a team that had enough talent but too many flaws, in construction and performance, and in the next few days will be officially eliminated from a wild-card race it had a chance to win but let slip away.

    Adeiny Hechavarria, high-fiving Lucas Duda, seems likely to be brought back.
  4. Trump fallout: Bucs' DeSean Jackson to make 'statement' Sunday


    Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson said Saturday that he will make a "statement" before today's game against the Vikings in response to President Donald Trump's comment that owners should "fire" players who kneel in protest during the national anthem.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) makes a catch during the first half of an NFL game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017.
  5. Kriseman invites Steph Curry to St. Pete on Twitter


    Mayor Rick Kriseman is no stranger to tweaking President Donald Trump on social media.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman took to Twitter Saturday evening to wade into President Donald Trump's latest social media scuffle