By John Morton
Beginning July 1, individual counties and municipalities in Florida now have the choice whether or not to ban cigarettes and cigars with filters on public beaches and in public parks.
The filters contribute to the ongoing litter problem, taking as long as 10 years to decompose.
The Florida House and Senate passed the measure in late February and early March, respectively, and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed off on the law June 17.
Previously, the issue had been under state control. Bans have not been not allowed here in Sarasota County since 2013, when a circuit judge ruled against them.
Catherine Luckner, president of the Siesta Key Association civic group, has recently notified her members that she’ll be requesting that Sarasota County put the topic on an upcoming commission agenda.
State Sen. Joe Gruters, who represents Siesta Key, pushed the measure for four consecutive legislative sessions before seeing an overwhelming victory this year (including a 30-8 House vote).
Back in 2007, Sarasota County did indeed impose such a ban, lasting six years, with a 4-1 vote.
While the issue of being subjected to second-hand smoke was at the forefront of previous arguments – one that triggered smoking bans on the inside of establishments – this time it was the issue of litter that ruled the day. Gruters reported that filters are the No. 1 piece of debris collected during beach clean-up efforts.