A Florida state senator who represents Sarasota County has filed a bill that would make it illegal to smoke tobacco on public beaches.
Republican Sen. Joe Gruters is the lawmaker proposing the rule change.
If passed, police officers would be able to write citations for anyone who didn't comply. The text of the bill says violators could face a maximum penalty of $25 or 10 hours of community service.
"The whole goal is to get butts off the beach," said Gruters. "There's nothing more disgusting than sitting next to somebody who's smoking and we've passed smoking bans in restaurants and public places and, certainly when it comes to our number one driver of our economy, which is tourism, we should do everything we can to make sure people's enjoyment of our number one natural resource is protected."
"I hate the smell of cigarette smoke, I hate it," said Bob Hoffman, on vacation in Clearwater Beach from Las Vegas. "We've been here about four days and up here, probably 20 feet in front of us, there was a whole group that was smoking up there and the smoke comes back and gets in your face. I don't like that."
"It's illegal to have alcohol, it's illegal to have dogs," added Hoffman. "I think cigarettes are a lot more destructive than that, so yeah, I'd be in favor of that."
Another reason Gruters is pushing for the ban, aside from trying to keep smoke and litter off the beach, is money. Many online beach rankings give bonus points for having nonsmoking policies.
“Those rankings, if one of our beaches whether it be Siesta Key, Clearwater or Sarasota, gets ranked No. 1 or even in the top 10, it’s a boon for the economy," said Gruters. "We want to continue to do well in these rankings, this is one way to do it.”
Florida's 60-day state legislative session begins on March 5.
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