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County can't ban smoking, its attorney says

Publication Date: 2013-01-08
  • Author:Jeremy Wallace
  • Publication: HERALD-TRIBUNE

Sarasota County does not have the authority to ban smoking at public beaches, outdoor sports facilities or parks, the county attorney told shocked county commissioners today.

County attorney Steven DeMarsh told commissioners that a recent court decision related to the city of Sarasota's proposed smoking ban was clear in declaring local governments — including the county — do not have the authority to ban smoking in public outdoor areas. Only the Florida Legislature can ban smoking on beaches and parks.

County commissioner Charles Hines asked the county attorney whether it means someone smoking in the bleachers at a public youth sports field could not be cited for smoking.

“Correct,” DeMarsh said.

Sarasota County commissioner Nora Patterson immediately called for county leaders to push the Legislature to introduce a bill giving counties the authority to ban smoking in public outdoor places.

The problem is a 2003 Florida law that allowed smokefree restaurants and workplaces. But the law had an exemption that expressly declared that only the state could ban smoking in other locations.

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