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News Summary

Clear the public's air: Legislature should help reinstate smoking bans at beaches and parks

Publication Date: 1/10/2013
  • Author:Editorial
  • Publication:Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Cigarette smoke in children's parks, public fitness trails or beaches is about as welcome as red tide -- and just as uncomfortable for the respiratorially challenged.

Local governments passed ordinances barring smoking in public parks and beaches. But, as Jeremy Wallace reported, the restrictions were struck down last month by a Sarasota County judge. Only the Florida Legislature has authority to regulate smoking, the judge said.

Lawmakers should act quickly to remedy the problem, either by enacting statewide restrictions on outdoor smoking (indoor rules are already in place) or granting that power to local communities.

To be sure, smoking bans stir qualms about government overreach, crimping the principle of individual choice. But when it comes to smoking in public parks, another principle -- basic safety -- should take precedence....

While the state's inaction on this issue is frustrating, we are troubled as well to learn -- long after local bans were enacted -- that Sarasota County and city no-smoking ordinances were not well grounded in law. When the local restrictions were approved in recent years, some legal sources warned that the ordinances would violate the state's long-standing authority. Yet other legal analysis noted, at the time, that the Florida attorney general's advisory opinions on the matter were not binding...

Legislators should put the matter on their to-do list for their upcoming session. Local governments, meanwhile, can work within the law to continue educating the public about the dangers of cigarette smoke. They also can extend help to smokers who want to quit...