Florida

This Florida senator doesn’t like smoking on beaches. His bill could make it illegal.

In this Aug. 25, 2018, photo a cigarette butt lies on the sand at a beach in Middletown, New Jersey. A ban on smoking tobacco at public beaches in Florida has been proposed by Florida Sen. Joe Gruters on Jan. 2, 2019. If passed, the law would go into effect July 1.
In this Aug. 25, 2018, photo a cigarette butt lies on the sand at a beach in Middletown, New Jersey. A ban on smoking tobacco at public beaches in Florida has been proposed by Florida Sen. Joe Gruters on Jan. 2, 2019. If passed, the law would go into effect July 1. AP

If you’re one of those who seek Florida beaches for the smell of open air — or at the least, the familiar scent of sunscreens and oils — you might welcome a new bill that was filed on Tuesday by a Florida senator from Sarasota.

Republican Sen. Joe Gruters’ Senate Bill 218 would prohibit the smoking of tobacco on public beaches. The bill would authorize law enforcement officers to issue citations “as prescribed by a county or municipality to any person who smokes tobacco on a public beach.”

The fines would be $25 or less and no more than 10 hours of community service. A corresponding bill has not been filed in the House. The Senate bill is filed for consideration in the March legislative session.

If passed by the Legislature, Gruters’ bill would have to be signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis. If he did so, it would go into effect on July 1.

If the bill passes, beachgoers should see fewer cigarette butts pressed into the sand. But the bill only mentions tobacco and does not address vaping on electronic cigarettes, a popular trend among teenagers that has already led Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber to urge stronger restrictions on their sales.

Vapes and e-cigarettes have grown in popularity in recent years. Often advertised as a less dangerous alternative to cigarettes, medical professionals still have much to learn about their health effects.

A 2016 U.S. Surgeon General’s report on e-cigarette usage among young adults found that e-cig usage grew “an astounding 900 percent among high school students from 2011 to 2015.”

The Tampa-born Gruters represents Florida’s 23rd district, which covers Sarasota County and parts of Charlotte County in southwest Florida.

Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.


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