Bill to ban smoking at parks, beaches changes

Amendment lessens penalties for smokers

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - State lawmakers want to bring the Clean Indoor Air Act outdoors.

A bill to allow smoking bans at parks and beaches passed a senate committee Thursday with little opposition. If the bill becomes law, cities and counties would get to decided where people can smoke.

Tykena Buckner went to a park near the state Capitol on Thursday to take a break from her busy life. She brought a friend's daughter to the park to feed the ducks and enjoy some fresh air.

"I generally try to come out here just to relax," Buckner said.

She said smokers have never bothered her at the park, but she does worry about kids breathing secondhand smoke, and litter from cigarettes.

"I know just like I wouldn't want to go to a restaurant and be around secondhand smoke, I wouldn't want to necessarily want it at a park," Buckner said.

Signs of smokers frequenting the park aren't hard to find. Whoever disposed of one cigarette butt stopped just a few feet from the trash can and threw it on the ground.

Litter is just one reason state lawmakers are hearing a bill to allow local governments to ban smoking at parks and beaches.

Before Thursday's bill passed the committee, it was amended by Sen. John Thrasher. His amendment lessens the penalties for smokers and requires police to give them several warnings.

"We are not out there to have a cigarette police or a smoking police," Thrasher said. "You know, that's not what we are about. This is about the health and welfare of the people of the state of Florida."

While the bill is gaining momentum, one concern remains, no one can say for sure how the changes would affect restaurants that allow outdoor smoking.

If the bill passes and a smoking ban is enacted, people caught violating it could face a $100 fine.

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