A statewide campaign to eliminate tobacco use in parks is gaining traction in Sarasota.
The city of Sarasota Parks, Recreation and Environmental Protection Board has asked the City Commission to study the effectiveness of creating tobacco-free zones in children’s areas of city parks.
The move came after a lengthy debate over personal rights and catching violators.
“I’m not sure how it can be enforced, but I think we should start somewhere,” said Elsie Souza, PREP board member.
Jennifer Robertson, of the Florida Department of Health, appeared before the PREP board Sept. 16, to push the statewide campaign of creating tobacco-free parks.
Tobacco-free, not smoke-free, she said, because tobacco companies are creating products, such as nicotine-laced lollipops that the state also does not want used in Florida’s parks.
“(The goal) is to increase the number of tobacco-free parks by 10% by 2012,” Robertson said.
Sarasota County adopted a beach-smoking ban three years ago, and so far in 2010 it has issued 21 citations for smoking on the beach. The city created its own beach-smoking ban last year.
How a new city park ordinance would be enforced was a question on the minds of PREP board members, but Robertson said they shouldn’t worry so much about who would write citations.
“The enforcement issue doesn’t have to be the end result,” she said, “because signs (prohibiting tobacco use) could be enough to discourage some people.”
The issue of smokers’ rights was also discussed.
“Are smokers being relegated to subhuman, because they have this addiction?” asked Vald Svekis, PREP board member.
Because they felt no one wanted children to be exposed to tobacco use, the board voted to back the creation of tobacco-free zones in the children’s area of city parks, and it suggested making the playground and children’s fountain at Bayfront Park a test area.
The City Commission will discuss the PREP board’s request at an unspecified future meeting.
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