Smoking ban to begin Oct. 1

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Immediate educational campaign by Sarasota County will feature signs, social media messages to inform those using beaches, parks

By ChrisAnn Allen

“No butts about it at parks and beaches” is the new slogan for Sarasota County’s smoking ban, adopted by the commission during a July 11 meeting and set to become effective Oct. 1.
Penalties for disobeying the ban can carry a fine as high as $500.
The motion to amend the current ordinance and restrict smoking at public parks and beaches, approved 4-1, was made by District 2 Commissioner Mark Smith and seconded by District 4 Commissioner Joe Neunder, who like Smith represents part of Siesta Key. Commissioner Mike Moran cast the dissenting vote.

Image courtesy of Sarasota County

As county parks, Siesta Key’s public beaches of Siesta and Turtle will be subject to the ban.
“It’s almost common sense,” Smith said. “You’re relaxing at the beach or you’re at a park, that you don’t like to smell smoke any more than you like to smell it at restaurants.”
Prior to the vote, Nicole Rissler, the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources director, gave a presentation on the history of the ordinance change and plans for promotion and public outreach.
Rissler said state legislation allowing counties and municipalities to once again regulate smoking within public beaches and parks, excluding unfiltered cigars, went into effect July 1 of last year. Previously, the matter was controlled by the state, after local regulation was overturned in 2012 through a circuit court decision. From 2007 to 2012, smoking on public beaches and in parks was prohibited in Sarasota County.
During an April 25 county commission meeting, a motion also made by Smith for staff to proceed with development of an ordinance amendment to prohibit smoking was approved. The board asked administrators to speak with municipalities and surrounding communities which have already enacted the ban to determine the best ways to enforce the prohibition while creating public awareness.
“In regards to the penalty of this violation, we are consistent with what we are proposing, which is up to a $500 fine,” Rissler said. “That was consistent in all of our municipalities that have enacted this ordinance, as well as Charlotte County.”
The cities of Sarasota and Venice, and the town of Longboat Key, were included in Rissler’s reference.
She said, upon speaking with those other administrators, the one aspect they would have engaged differently would be increased outreach prior to the ordinance change going into effect. So Rissler recommended a 60-day lead time before enacting the change.
“I will tell you there is an extensive marketing and education plan behind this that would be launched if approved today, which will include social media, Facebook video posts, website announcements, banners and signage at a variety of select parks and beaches, press releases and media engagement,” Rissler said, and recommended Oct. 1 for the effective date, with an extensive community education campaign launching early August.
There was no public comment on the matter during the July 11 meeting.
Neunder asked Rissler about the penalty of imprisonment for up to 60 days, as specified in the cities of Sarasota and Venice smoking ban.
She responded that punishment was consistent with the other penalties and is included in the amendment with the addition of a fine up to $500.
“OK, good to know,” Neunder said. “People better behave out there.”
The ordinance amendment focuses on the possible damage to the environment and wildlife, due to improper disposal of cigarette butts, stating, “The litter caused by those who improperly dispose of cigarette butts within public beaches and parks is difficult to remove, can lead to severe burns and/or ingestion hazards to park patrons and wildlife, can significantly detract from a healthy environment, and reduce the enjoyment of the County’s beaches and parks for those individuals and families who want to enjoy a healthy environment, free of smoking-related pollution and hazards.”
Commissioner Neil Rainford said of the amended ordinance, “I think it’s great. No one wants their kids playing in a park having to inhale secondhand smoke, so I’m all for it.”

ChrisAnn Allen
Author: ChrisAnn Allen

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