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Smoking at Florida Park and Beaches Faces New Threat

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For the third time this year, smoking on Florida’s parks and beaches is being threatened.

In 2011, the state of Florida adopted statue 386.209, a measure approved by the Florida Legislature that prevented cities within the state from banning smoking on any municipal or county property with the exception of school district property, in other words—smoking was going to be legal at parks and beaches within the state.

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For the most part, the cities within the state, including Davie and Sunrise, with smoking bans did not change the laws afterwards, but because they could not be enforced, it was simply a hollow law. It also meant that cities considering smoking bans on municipal property abandoned the plans for new restrictions.

In January, Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, proposed HB 439, a bill that would allow cities to ban smoking on parks, beaches and other municipal property, that bill died in subcommittee. A separate bill, SB 258, proposed by Sen. Rob Bradley R-Fleing Island, also contained similar language and died in subcommittee.

Now, there’s a new threat.

Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation, has filed HB 309, which would allow cities to ban  for the 2014 session. Bradley has filed an accompanying SB 342 in the Florida Senate.

“We have been combatting this state proposal for three years,” said Jeff Borysiewicz, the president and founder of Corona Cigar Co. “The anti-tobacco groups will advertise that they want to ban smoking in playgrounds, but that is just the “smoke and mirrors” storyline they feed the press. Their real goal is to ban outdoor smoking everywhere.”

In fact, Edwards and Borysiewicz agree on the motives behind the two new bills, which at the moment only include language regarding playgrounds. Edwards told the Sun Sentinel, “my goal is to eventually outlaw smoking on beaches.”

The difference between the measures proposed in January versus those being proposed for 2014 is that the earlier versions included language regarding all municipal property. It’s unclear whether Edwards and Bradley will modify the bills to include this language.

“I don’t think anyone would oppose local governments posting no smoking signs at playgrounds and people would abide,” said Borysiewicz, who also is a co-founder and chairman of Cigar Rights of America. 

“Gutting the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act to allow for local governments to ban public outdoor smoking is a bad idea that will allow the radical anti-tobacco groups to use their well funded activists and lobbyists to pass complete outdoor smoking bans all across the state and strip the little bit of freedom cigar enthusiasts still have to enjoy a fine cigar.”

Update (December 2, 2013): Abe Dabaneh of Smoke Inn sent the following statement:

There has been a push lately by state representatives in Florida for legislation to prohibit smoking in public areas such as parks and beaches. The arguments are put forward on the following grounds: 1) Second hand smoke is a health hazard 2) Smoking where children are present is a bad influence 3) Smokers litter the beaches.

These are arguments that stir the public and make “progressive” thinkers fume with righteous indignation. But, let us take a quick look at each argument in detail.

First, the idea that a smoking bad should be put in place for public beaches, as is the goal of State Rep. Katie Edwards (D – Plantation). The beaches are a public space for the leisure and enjoyment of all Florida’s taxpayers, and visitors, including those who smoke. There are laws that prohibit littering. Adding another law, layered over the first, both of which address the same issue is only an exercise in excessive government. The answer to a littering problem is not to make smoking a crime, it is to enforce the current laws that address that very issue. The question must be asked if smokers are the only beach goers who litter? The answer is no. And, thus, should Rep. Edwards not seek to outlaw any activity on beaches that produces litter of any kind? How about a ban on eating and drinking? No more pleasant sunset picnics. The proposed ban on smoking is an unjust discrimination of those who enjoy a legal product over those who may litter other items that are not as socially stigmatized. Personally, I like being able to sit at the beach and relax with a cigar. I should have every right to do so, just as someone else may want to relax with a sandwich and a soda – the refuse from which can also become litter.

Second, the idea that smoking where children are present is a bad influence. Here we have a more complex issue of civil liberties. There are many behaviors exhibited by adolescents and adults in the presence of children that some may consider bad influences. When I am out in public with my children I would rather they not be exposed to many things. I don’t like to see spitting, hear swearing, be exposed to offensive music, see t-shirts with lewd messages or drug references on them. The fact is that so may behaviors of our fellow citizens could be considered “bad influences” by others, depending on their personal tastes and sensibilities. However, instead of crying for all the world to bend to my will, I realize that it is the right of others to express themselves freely and pursue their own version of happiness. It is my responsibility to be a parent and to guide the behaviors of my children myself. That is not the role of the state or the purpose of legislation.

Third, the idea that exposure to second hand smoke outdoors is a health risk. This is the favorite cry of those seeking to cut the rights of smokers out from under them at every point. The risks of second had smoke have been widely studied and reported by anti-smoking lobbies. However, these studies involve exposure to secondhand smoke in indoor settings such as the home, airplanes, restaurants, etc., but not outdoor settings. The EPA website itself states that the, “EPA has never claimed that minimal exposure to secondhand smoke poses a huge individual cancer risk.” What a child or another adult experience in a park or at the beach must be qualified at minimal exposure. The smell or aroma of smoke, which you may or may not like, that one experiences in an outdoor setting does not constitute the prolonged exposure that is dangerous to ones health. Smoking lobbies have long sought to imbue the public with the fear that the smell of smoke is equivalent to the reality of a cancer risk. The ambient air around us is host to many potentially lethal constituent elements, should those elements be inhaled directly and exclusively. The nitrogen and oxygen that make up the air we breathe are both poisonous if taken in their pure state, as would be the exhaust from cars or the smoke from your neighbor’s BBQ. The simple fact is that tobacco smoke, diluted in the open air, is NOT dangerous to Rep. Edwards, she just doesn’t like it and is using a twist of pseudo-science to confuse and frighten the public.

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Charlie Minato
About the author

I am an editor and co-founder of halfwheel.com/Rueda Media, LLC. I previously co-founded and published TheCigarFeed, one of the two predecessors of halfwheel. I handle the editing of our written content, the majority of the technical aspects of the site and work with the rest of our staff on content management, business development and more. I’ve lived in most corners of the country and now entering my second stint in Dallas, Texas. I enjoy boxing, headphones, the Le Mans 24-hour, wearing sweatshirts year-round and gyros. echte liebe.

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