SARASOTA, Fla. — Under a new law that took effect on July 1, local governments can ban smoking at beaches and parks. Ocean Conservancy leaders say cigarette butts have hurt the Florida environment for too long.
Ocean Conservancy, State Sen. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota) and Dr. Stephen Leatherman, also known as Dr. Beach, met Friday at Lido Key Beach to celebrate the "victory for Florida conservation."
"Our beaches are the centerpiece of our community and our most valuable, precious resource," Grueters said in a news release. "Removing cigarette butts will protect our beautiful white sands and wildlife, so that visitors will keep coming back to support our local economy.”
In addition, the giant cigarette butts stuffed into the sand at Lido Key have also been removed and trashed in honor of the law taking effect.
Gruters said allowing smoking bans on Florida beaches will positively impact the state's tourism as well. Vacation sites like Dr. Beach, have a point system and give points for bans on smoking when evaluating beaches.
"I am sure that Sarasota will again take the lead in prohibiting smoking on their beautiful beaches," Dr. Beach explained. "Hopefully, other beach communities statewide will also pass regulations to make their beaches cleaner and healthier."
Cigarette butts left behind can have a lasting and harmful effect on the environment. Ocean Conservancy found cigarette butts to be the fourth most harmful type of plastic to marine life. The butts are made of tightly packed plastic fibers, researchers say, and when those erode into smaller bits, fish can eat them. It's not just hard for marine life, but human health is at risk when people consume sick fish, Ocean Conservancy explains.
Cigarette butts are commonly found along Florida coastlines.
"Now that the law is officially in place, Ocean Conservancy is urging local governments to take action to implement these new rules," director of Florida Conservation at Ocean Conservancy Jon Paul “J.P.” Brooker said in a statement.