NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – Starting Friday, local governments in Florida can ban smoking on beaches and parks.
That’s when a bill signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis goes into effect. With that state approval, the city of Fernandina Beach is getting closer to doing just that.
Every day, hundreds of people visit the city of Fernandina for its beautiful beaches. Tammi Bach is the city attorney for Fernandina Beach and says despite volunteer beach cleanups and a contract for beach cleaning, cigarette butts are often left behind.
Related: Fernandina steps closer to banning cigarettes on its beaches
“Cigarette butts are one of the number one things, in terms of volume that are picked up on our beaches,” Bach said. “So, there is a cigarette filter litter problem.”
That’s why the city is on track to make beach smoking a public nuisance.
Bach said the city’s main purposes in going forward with the proposal are because of overall health, and litter. Text for the proposed ordinance says smoking would be strictly prohibited “with the exception of the smoking of cigars that do not contain a filter or plastic tip or the smoking of pipe tobacco in a pipe.”
If you’re caught lighting up on the beach or in a park, it will cost you a $75 fine. Beachgoers like Sarah Soto are on board.
“It’s a good thing because it’s, you’re poisoning the air,” Soto said. “It’s bad, it’s bad for the environment.”
But others disagree. Sheila Schultz is visiting from Minnesota and said banning smoking on beaches and parks is overreach.
“I think that, it’s outdoors,” Schultz said. “I think that’s pushing it a little too far.”
When News4jax reporter Ashley Harding asked if cigarette smoke bothers her when she’s spending time at the beach, Schultz replied, “It does not, I don’t smell it at all.”
Ocean Conservancy’s most recent data show up to 2.4 million cigarette butts were collected from beaches worldwide. Bach said even though some have voiced their opposition to the proposed measure during city meetings, the response overall has been positive. She said if the proposed ordinance passes, making it work will be a team effort.
“I count on citizens and visitors when they see the signage to let other people know that we don’t allow smoking on our beaches or in our city parks,” Bach said.
Regarding appropriate signage, Bach went on to say, “The legislature has also told us exactly what needs to be on the sign, which would include a QR code that would reference to state law,” Bach said. “So, we’ll have to get those signs ready as well.
The proposal has already passed through one reading. Bach says the second and final reading is July 19. Click here to read the ordinance.