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Keep the butts off the beach: Sarasota County beach smoking ban goes into effect soon

Violators could face a $74.50 fine.

SARASOTA, Fla. — In just a couple of weeks, smoking at Sarasota County-owned beaches and parks will go, well, up in smoke.

The county's ordinance prohibiting smoking at several beaches, beach access points, parks, natural areas and youth athletic and play areas goes into effect on Sunday, Oct. 1. 

County commissioners in July voted 4-1 following a state law that gave local governments the authority to implement such bans. Local leaders cannot, however, further restrict the smoking of unfiltered cigars, the Florida statute reads.

The ordinance cited environmental and safety concerns that rogue cigarette butts have when improperly discarded.

It reads: "The litter caused by those who improperly dispose of cigarette butts within public beaches and parks is difficult to remove, can lead to severe burns and/or ingestion hazards to park patrons and wildlife, can significantly detract from a healthy environment, and reduce the enjoyment of the County's beaches and parks for those individuals and families who want to enjoy a healthy environment, free of smoking-related pollution and hazards."

Sarasota County leaders say work is ongoing to update park signage on the change People who are found to be in violation of the ordinance could be subject to a $74.50 fine plus possible additional costs.

But as previously reported, officials stressed, at least for now, people will be made aware of the change before enforcement.

"We anticipate that there will not be a ton of civil fines being put out there but more of this being about an education awareness campaign across the board and maybe even a little peer pressure," Said Nicole Rissler with Sarasota County Parks and Rec.

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