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Beach smoking bills make exceptions for unfiltered cigars

The focus is being kept on cigarettes.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The renewed effort to snuff out smoking on Florida's beaches recently underwent a noteworthy change that's reflective of the state's deep history with cigars, especially in the Tampa Bay region.

Amendments have sailed into state House and Senate bills to alter the way the potential future law would treat cigars, in particular.

To recap, State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, introduced a bill last year that would allow local governments to ban smoking and cigarette butts from public beaches and state parks.

“This doesn’t mean that we're gonna ban smoking on all beaches and parks throughout Florida," Gruters previously explained. "This will just give them power and return the ability of local governments and give them the chance to do what’s best for their communities."

Conservationists backing the legislation have warned cigarette butts contain small plastic fibers that fish and wildlife can ingest. In other words, the plastic is the primary concern. And, there are fears that after fish ingest plastic, it could wind back up on our plates.

Thus, carefully-worded amendments have been worked into the House and Senate variations that allow counties and cities to restrict smoking at public parks and beaches that they own – but without allowing them to restrict the smoking of cigars that don't contain filters or plastic tips. That way, lawmakers take care of the plastic concern while making sure local governments can only add restrictions for filtered cigars and not touch the unfiltered ones. Under the revised Senate version, municipalities also couldn't limit the smoking of pipe tobacco. 

As Florida Politics reports, which previously reported on the changes explained, this is the first time such legislation looks likely to pass in both legislative chambers – with a House vote coming Thursday.

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