Editorial: Local governments, not state of Florida, should have final authority over smoking regulations
Publication Date: 2011-10-11
The law has been on the books in Florida for 26 years.
It's time to change the law.
The state's Clean Indoor Air Act of 1985 contains a clause that "expressly preempts regulation of smoking to the state and supersedes any municipal or county ordinance on the subject." Basically, it prohibited local governments from enacting laws to restrict smoking in any indoor or outdoor setting, or to restrict the marketing, advertising and sale of tobacco products.
In 2003, the Florida Legislature passed the second Clean Indoor Air Act, which amended the original statute. Local governments were granted authority to regulate smoking in restaurants and workplaces. However, because the preemption clause was retained, local governments continue to lack authority to regulate smoking in outdoor settings.
Recently, members of Students Working Against Tobacco in Martin County urged county officials to adopt a resolution urging the Legislature to "restore the right of local governments to enact and enforce smoke-free air and other tobacco-related laws."
Martin County commissioners unanimously approved the resolution. They also approved a second resolution urging tobacco retailers in the county to stop selling and marketing flavored tobacco products.
Members of the SWAT group told commissioners their organization conducted research in 2010 and found that 75 percent of retailers located within three miles of Martin County's middle and high schools sell flavored tobacco products. Fruit- and candy-flavored tobacco products -- engineered and packaged by the tobacco industry to appeal to minors -- are becoming commonplace in stores that also sell candy and cigarettes.
Eighty-five percent of new tobacco users start between the ages of 12 and 17, according to anti-tobacco advocates. Many of these first-time tobacco users are being lured into a lifelong habit by products made to look, and taste, like candy.
The Martin County Commission also approved the second resolution.
All Treasure Coast governments -- and others throughout the state -- should follow suit and adopt similar resolutions.
Absent the elimination of the state's preemption clause, local governments are limited to passing resolutions -- such as the one being considered by Vero Beach officials -- to establish tobacco-free zones in some public areas.
"Our proposed resolution is designed to encourage people not to smoke in select areas," said Wayne Coment, acting city attorney in Vero Beach. "Any ordinance we might pass would be preempted by state law and would not be enforceable."
Each county and municipality in Florida should be allowed to decide for itself the extent of its anti-smoking laws. Reserving this right to the state -- and denying it to individual communities -- is ludicrous. Likewise, local retailers should be urged to stop selling candy- and fruit-flavored tobacco products -- products that are putting a new generation of Americans at risk for tobacco-related illnesses.