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Sarasota Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022 1 week ago

Sarasota senator sponsors cigarette butts bill

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The measure would give local governments the ability to ban smoking on beaches.

Ask anyone who’s been to a beach what the most prevalent piece of seaside trash is, and the answer is almost always cigarette butts.

The hard-to-degrade bits of refuse turn up in beach cleanups and, wildlife advocates say, the digestive systems of sea turtles and other dwellers.

State Sen. Joe Gruters is hoping to give local governments the power to ban smoking on the beach, something that can’t be done now because of state laws.

“Florida beaches are the economic engine of our state,’’ Gruters said at a news conference last week on Lido Beach. “People travel from around the world to visit our pristine shorelines and enjoy the Sunshine State’s natural beauty. We must do everything that we can to protect our most valuable asset.”

Gruters has sponsored a bill in the Florida legislature this session to allow counties, cities and towns ban smoking on the beaches. The bill would also open up that option for state parks.

Gruters bill has been moved along in the Senate after approval by the Community Affairs committee and is now under consideration by the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

A companion bill in the state House of Representatives has been referred to committee.

Appearing alongside Gruters at the news conference were representatives of Ocean Conservancy and Sarasota artist Erin Ernst, who created giant cigarette butt sculptures in the sand.

Ernst her daughter and Girl Scout troop learned recently first hand about cigarette butts on the beach and wanted to help raise awareness.

“We are really excited to be a part of this. I decided to have my kids work on the cigarette butt art with me as a project during Christmas break. It’s a way to show them that they can make a difference and create change in our community even at a young age,” she said. 

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