JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With its beautiful water and sand, it is easy to understand see why Kelly Nagel and her family love making the trip from north Georgia to Fernandina Beach.
“It’s actually our favorite beach,” Nagel said. “We love Fernandina Beach, it’s one of the ones we come to move often.”
The Nagels aren’t the only ones. Every day, people walk up and down the beach. Some puff cigarettes, but under SB 334, smoking on public beaches and public parks could soon become a thing of the past.
SB 334 doesn’t outright ban lighting up in these areas, it would allow municipalities to ban smoking if they wanted to. As things stand now, only the state can do that. The bill also calls for smoking to be prohibited in state parks. Nagel likes the idea.
“I actually don’t mind the smoking itself,” Nagel said. “It’s that people leave their cigarette butts in the sand. Because of that, I would love it if they banned smoking.”
The data show smoking is a concern at some of the beaches in Northeast Florida. Numbers from the local non-profit, Beaches Go Green, show more than 10,000 cigarette butts were cleaned up at its November 7 event between the Beaches Town Center area, St. Augustine, and Guana.
The numbers go on to show 7,683 of those were picked up within a two-hour time frame. Beaches Go Green founder, Anne Marie Moquin, says at the clean up prior to the November 7 event, volunteers collected over 13,000 butts in the same time frame.
A lower butt count is likely attributable to COVID-19 related closures. She says on average, the cities of Atlantic Beach and Neptune Beach empty cigarette butt canisters once a month. She says, as a result, between 300-500 butts are collected per month, per city.
While some are on board with the idea of banning smoking in public parks and beaches, not everyone is sold on the idea. Others, including Nassau County resident Katie Boucher, think it goes too far.
“I think it’s kind of overreacting,” Boucher said. “That makes no sense. I mean, it’s public property.”