Proposed legislation approved by a Florida Senate committee Thursday would allow local ordinances banning smoking in some outdoor spaces. Given that authority, at least two cities in the Tampa Bay area might move swiftly.
"We clearly would pass legislation if we were allowed to," said Karl Nurse, chairman of the St. Petersburg City Council. Nurse said councilmembers discussed the possibility but were advised they had no authority under current Florida law.
If allowed by state law, he predicted, the council would ban smoking in parks, on beaches and outside public buildings within 60 days.
"The obvious place to start is in recreational-related facilities. There's something bizarre about people smoking watching their children getting exercise," Nurse told FOX 13 News, adding, "we have 76 public buildings so we could certainly provide an envelope around those."
The city of Sarasota did ban smoking in parks and on beaches, but a judge struck down that ordinance late last year.
The proposed legislation would require law enforcement officials to first tell smokers about restrictions and then ask them to leave if they continue smoking. A citation would only be issued to those not complying with the first two requests.
In St. Petersburg's Williams Park, most smokers objected to the prospect of an outdoor smoking ban.
"They haven't banned cigarettes in stores, so why would they want to ban them in the park?" one said.
"Look around," another offered. "There's tons of fresh air, the wind's blowing all the time."
But non-smoker Keimbuabae Ogunleye said tobacco smoke "...affects me and it affects anyone they come around."
He also said many smokers are not considerate.
"I don't think they care, they just do it because they feel like it, not feeling that somebody else that doesn't smoke, doesn't want to be affected, they don't care they just want to keep smoking" Ogunleye added.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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