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Sarasota lawmaker seeks to ban smoking on Florida beaches

The proposed legislation by Sen. Joe Gruters revives Sarasota's fight to ban smoking on Florida beaches.

The days of finding yellowed cigarette butts buried in sand along with conchs, cockles and other discarded mollusk homes could soon be put out thanks to a bill from a freshman Florida State Senator.

Tampa-born Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, filed SB 218 Wednesday. The proposed law looks to ban smoking on all public beaches. Law enforcement officers would be able to hit violators with maximum penalties of either $25 or 10 hours of community service.

The bill was filed for consideration in the coming 2019 legislative session, which begins March 5. If it passes, the law would go into effect July 1.

Gruters represents Florida's 23rd district, which covers parts of Sarasota and Charlotte counties, and public smoking bans are nothing new for Sarasota politicos. Sarasota lawmakers banned smoking on public beaches in 2007, fining violators up to $100. But five years later, a judge ruled the law unenforceable.

In December 2012, Sarasota County Judge Maryann Boehm said the smoking ban couldn't be enforced because the 2003 Florida law that banned smoking in offices and restaurants made it clear that only the state legislature could ban smoking anywhere else. In Gruters, Sarasota's anti-smoking wing could, at long last, find its champion and some recompense.

The bill, however, only covers tobacco and doesn't mention the growing trend of vaping. So, while the sands of Florida's beaches may soon be free of cigarette butts, the air could still be filled with candy-scented clouds.

Contact Daniel Figueroa IV at Follow @danuscripts.