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Bill would open door for Florida counties to ban cigarette smoking on beaches

A staff analysis found that up to two-thirds of cigarette butts are discarded as litter, and that the butts could be toxic to animals.
Melissa Shapero holds a cigarette butt removed from the beachfront in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., as part of statewide spring beach cleaning.  Stephen Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University known as Dr. Beach, creates an annual list of best beaches and says that beginning in 2016, he'll give extra points to beaches that ban smoking. [WAYNE PARRY | Associated Press]
Melissa Shapero holds a cigarette butt removed from the beachfront in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., as part of statewide spring beach cleaning. Stephen Leatherman, a professor at Florida International University known as Dr. Beach, creates an annual list of best beaches and says that beginning in 2016, he'll give extra points to beaches that ban smoking. [WAYNE PARRY | Associated Press]
Published Mar. 16
Updated Mar. 16

A Senate committee on Monday unanimously approved a bill that would allow counties and cities to restrict smoking on beaches and public parks they own.

Before passing the bill, Senate Bill 334, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee approved an amendment by Chairman Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, that would prevent local governments from banning cigar or pipe smoking on beaches or in parks.

Bill sponsor Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, said the goal is to get cigarettes off beaches and that cigars haven’t been the issue.

Florida has 67 county park systems and more than 400 municipal park systems.

According to a staff analysis of the bill, it is estimated that, of the roughly 6 trillion cigarettes smoked annually worldwide, up to two-thirds of cigarette butts are discarded as litter. The butts contain hazardous substances that can potentially be toxic to animals.

The House Professions & Public Health Subcommittee is slated Tuesday to consider the House version (HB 239), sponsored by Rep. Thad Altman, R-Indialantic.