Senate Bill 258 could ban smoking from public places

8:01 PM, Feb 22, 2013   |    comments
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Cathy Snyder says Senate Bill 258 penalizes smokers, and that she is not in favor of banning smoking from public places
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Clearwater Beach, Florida- Over the years smokers have been snuffed out of many places, forced to take a puff in designated areas. Now a Senate Bill may squeeze smokers out of public places too.

Senate Bill 258 still has a long way to go, but it's gaining support.  

Some local governments tried banning smoking from public places, such as beaches and parks, but had to lift the ban after state officials said it violates Florida's 2003 Clean Indoor Air Act. 

Now, legislators have found a way around it- introducing a new bill that restricts where smokers can light up.

"It's my decision, not the government's decision at all," says Cathy Snyder. 

Snyder says the bill penalizes smokers like her. She feels she is a considerate smoker, and says she doesn't smoke in her home or car, and goes away from others when smoking in public.   

The bill passed committee unanimously. It would allow local governments to ban smoking from public places such as beaches, parks and playgrounds. Businesses on public property would be included. 

"It would be nice if you could smoke where you want," says David Vredeveld, a smoker. "It would be nice if we had the same rights as everybody else." 

But non-smokers say it's their rights being violated when someone lights up near them in a public area.  

"It's very annoying. I can still smell it out in the open," says Nancy Lunsford. "I'm all for it. I think it's rude to smoke around people in a public area- yes I do."

Violators are given a warning the first time. If they continue to smoke, they will be asked to leave the property and after that, it's a non-criminal violation carrying a $100 penalty- the cost of about 14 packs of cigarettes.     

Pat Austin is a former smoker and says she supports banning smoking from public areas. 

"It's a health hazard. It shouldn't be around people who don't want it to be around them."

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Associations says it has some concerns, especially around the financial impact it would have on businesses that made changes because of the 2003 law.

The House is drawing up a similar bill.

Isabel Mascarenas

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