Smoking on beaches and in public parks within the town of Longboat Key has been banned following an unanimous vote Monday by the Town Commission.
“We are supportive of the ban,” Sarah Cirone said Monday. “There is nothing that ruins a beach day quicker than cigarette smoke.”
Cirone was enjoying a walk on the beach Monday morning with family members and friends, Annie Glennon and Kathleen Eidson. The trio visits the barrier island annually as part of a family reunion tradition that has spanned over 40 years, they said.
The commission initially approved the ban at its Sept. 12 meeting. The ban was intended to be revisited Sept. 27, but due to Hurricane Ian, the meeting was postponed twice to Oct. 17.
Vice Mayor Maureen Merrigan was absent from Monday’s meeting.
The ban does not prohibit the use of unfiltered cigars and pipe tobacco use, which are both protected by state law.
Monday's discussion was brief as support of the ban was stated during the first reading of the ban.
"We've mentioned before, at the first reading, that a number of jurisdictions around us either have adopted or are in the process of adopting," Town Manager Tom Harmer said. "Now, we're seeing the communities around us adopt."
Before the commission’s traditional summer hiatus in July, commissioners got the ball rolling on the matter, asking not just for discussion, but for town staff to have an ordinance prepared by the time they returned in September.
The first reading of the ordinance passed unanimously even with comments from commissioners about redundancy of the ordinance, if its main focus was to reduce littering, which is already banned within the town limits.
“I think the only change that would be anticipated would be an addition of signage to indicate smoking would not be allowed,” Allen Parson, the town’s Planning, Zoning and Building Director said during the Sept. 12 meeting. “It would be a pretty easy addition to the signage that we have on our beach access points.”
Much like other prohibited behaviors, which include bringing dogs or alcoholic beverages on the beach, with the approval of the smoking ban, police officers would be able to respond to calls and observations of the behavior.
According to the Ocean Conservancy, cigarette butts have been the most commonly found litter on Florida beaches during the organization’s annual Coastal Cleanup for the past 31 years. The butts are made of tightly packed plastic fibers that erode into smaller bits, which accumulate in fish and other organisms, adversely affecting sea life health and reproductivity as well as human health when consuming the affected fish.
During its Sept. 6 meeting, the Sarasota City Commission initially approved a smoking ban in all city-owned parks and beaches, such as adjacent-to-Longboat Key sites, Lido Beach and City Island park. The ban was then passed on its second reading as a consent agenda item on Oct. 3.
On Oct.11, the Sarasota County Commission discussion of a similar ban was postponed after prompting from Commissioner Nancy Detert.
House Bill 105, which amended the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act and renamed it the Florida Clean Air Act, allows cities and counties to impose such restrictions, which do not apply to unfiltered cigars and pipe tobacco use. In her motion to continue the agenda item, Detert explained the public has not been adequately educated about the proposal.
Unless otherwise deleted from consideration, a ban on smoking for county-run beaches would include the popular Siesta Key public beach.
Last week, County Commissioner Christian Ziegler said county residents should have more time to consider all options and weigh in the issue.
"I know there are a lot of people that want to ban smoking at our beaches, and I know there's a lot of public interest in it, but I think it is important for the public to understand what's going on and what the various options are,” Ziegler said.