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Date of Issue: December 26, 2007

County attorney advices against ban

Manatee County Commissioner Donna Hayes backed away last week from a push to ban smoking on the county’s beaches.

Hayes said she decided not to pursue an ordinance after hearing from Manatee County Attorney Tedd Williams.

The attorney told Hayes and other commissioners that he didn’t think the ordinance would withstand a court challenge.

Florida law, which prohibits indoor smoking in most public areas, reserves regulation of smoking for the state, Williams said.

Hayes had suggested pursuing a ban on beach smoking several days after the Sarasota County Commission adopted an ordinance restricting smoking at its public beaches to parking areas and picnic shelters.

Hayes proposed a similar ban in Manatee County, citing environmental, economical and public safety concerns. Mainly, she said, she was troubled that the county must foot the cost of picking up butts.

Hayes informed other county commissioners of her decision to drop the campaign during a board meeting Dec. 18.

Commissioner Ron Getman said that such a ban probably would be unenforceable anyway and Commission Chair Amy Stein suggested the county look at placing more receptacles at beach entrances so beaches don’t become ashtrays.

Cigarette butts are the most common form of litter in the world, according to various surveys. In the United States, smokers discard about 4.5 trillion butts on the ground each year.

Sarasota County’s ordinance took several months to adopt. Workshops on the issue took place in March, followed by discussions between county and municipal officials.

Other locales in the United States also have enacted ordinances banning smoking on beaches and in parks, including Chicago, where smokers who light up within 15 feet of a beach or playground can be fined up to $500. Many beach communities in California also ban smoking, including Long Beach, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Malibu, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, San Clemente and Newport Beach.