Sarasota County bans smoking on beaches

12/12/07 Seán Kinane
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Sarasota County Commissioners voted 4-1 yesterday to ban smoking on all county park beaches. Commissioner Shannon Staub, who represents District 3, the southern part of the county, said the ordinance would take effect within the next 90 days as the county erects signs notifying beachgoers.

The fine for smoking on Sarastota County beaches will be $97. But Sarasota County Parks and Recreation Supervisor Rob LaDue said that first offenders should just receive a warning.

Straub said the litter from cigarette butts harms people, pets, and wildlife.

Sandra Washington is manager of the county program Keep Sarasota Beautiful. She supports the decision to ban smoking on beaches.

Washington said her group is trying to get the cities in Sarasota County to enact their own beach smoking bans. Similar beach smoking bans in other parts of the country have cut down on littering, according to Washington.

Commissioner Jon Thaxton was the lone vote against the ordinance, but he was not available for comment. Commissioner Staub said she heard much support for the smoking ban, but very few people contacted her in opposition.

District 1, in the north of Sarasota County, is represented by Commissioner Paul Mercier. He concurred that there was not a vocal opposition to the beach smoking ban.

Learn more:

Sarasota County Commissioners

Action on Smoking and Health, ASH

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RE Smoking

Commissioner Staub, I have heard about, through press release the banning of smoking on the beaches. As a natural born Sarasota Resident, I am thoroughly appalled by some of the decisions that are made by the county commission. You may have authority to vote and pass in your public agenda an ordinance against smoking on the beaches, but you have no legitimate right to even pass such am ordinance. The beach is public property not private. I believe the county has every right to set a standard for rules that would prevent someone from committing a crime against another person, violating a state or federal law, or participating in any activity which could potentially cause harm to others. That is reasonable. But you and the commission have no right to set any standard that discriminates against a person for smoking. You don’t own the air or have any control over it. State law prevents smoking in a restaurant that serves food, only while food is being served and I understand that in a closed air environment. You have every right to dictate what happens in an indoor arena. The only agency in the United States that has any regulatory rights to the air is the Environmental Protection Agency. A government body in which you have no participation in, and whom themselves has never attempted such ludicrous authority. The reason you didn’t receive much opposition to this is because of the lack of public notification that was provided. Your new ordinance is unconstitutional and if someone had to fight it in court, you would have very little backing from any court. Now, as we are both professionals, we know and realize that the likely hood of someone fighting it in court would be little to none, and it is for that reason only you would get away with it. You should ban gum chewing on the beach too while you’re at it, as it is made with chicle, a natural latex product, or synthetic rubber known as polyisobutylene. Chewing gum has a longer break down period than a cigarette butt, causes more of a littering and property damage problem (everyone hates stepping on gum and it ruins sidewalks) than a cigarette and is 10 times more harmful to birds and wild life. I assume you are talking about birds, because I do not see any Deer roaming our beaches. When in your entire history in Sarasota County have you ever seen a bird eat a cigarette butt? They will eat a potato chip and won’t even peck at a piece of a tomato. You think birds are so primitive that they will eat a cigarette butt? I bet my paycheck you have never seen a bird eat a cigarette. I walk downtown weekly. I see gum everywhere not cigarette butts, and there is no ban on cigarettes downtown. Most smokers have respect and pick up after themselves at the beach. Did you actually think that such a decision would help promote tourism in this town? No, what you just did was make the Sarasota beaches an intolerable place for 46 Million Americans, and 23% of international tourists to ever go. No smoker wants to go sit at a beach all day where they can’t smoke. You just crippled your beach tourism. Matter a fact you may have just boosted the bar business and the consumption of alcohol along beach areas, because that’s where all the smokers will be. I can see the headline now “Sarasota County bans cigarettes on beach, forcing smokers into bars”, “Man DUI kills tourist girl, from drinking in bar while his wife sat on beach”. You and the commission have to have a much larger grasp on some of the horrendously poor decisions you make. I see the face of local business owners everyday who themselves are deeply impacted by poor decisions from you all. This smoking ban is an unconstitutional crock of crap from the commission. I have every right to smoke on the beach of a town I was born and raised in and support. Your ban, is banned by me for one as I will indeed not abide by any such ordinance. You think cigarettes are a problem on the beach, then enforce a littering fine. Oh wait, that’s an ordinance which I agree with that has already been in place forever. I guess if your Deputies weren’t so busy flirting with girls in bikinis they might actually generate some revenue dollars for Sarasota County with littering fines. After all that’s what you really want is revenue. Maybe to help pay for the LED lighting that the County so poorly decided to purchase on a leasing plan with Siemens. That was a tremendously poor decision, did anyone even put a single effort of research into that. Obviously there you had no due diligence. The fact of the matter besides your prejudice to smokers and greedy revenue seeking, is that you’re making a law of banning to reduce smoking to cut down on littering when you can’t even successfully enforce a 50 year old littering ordinance. Maybe your efforts would be more successful focusing on the enforcement of existing laws than to create new ones to further your inability to support existing ones and pissing off potentially 46 Million tourists who could opt to come here, but will more likely go to Manatee County. Maybe you just gave Manatee County tourism a big hand. You are catering this town to a dwindling number of supporters. Your local business owners can’t stand most of what you do, because you don’t even support the main people who make this city great, or did rather. Your office wouldn’t be receiving an email like this if you would focus on your shortcomings and fix those problems before you place discriminatory burdens on tax payers and tourists. Heck, you can’t even get the Sarasota Airport to be a success, while Tampa Airport flourishes to a city with no beaches. Keep Sarasota Beautiful…….. Ha! You want this town to be beautiful. Stop building parking garages with $20,000 ugly sails and parks in bad neighborhoods where the residents don’t care, and cut a business owner a property tax credit for landscaping and painting improvements (in a color other than beige or beige) and maybe this town might be more beautiful. Sarasota County has turned to crap with politics that are bigger than the county itself. You have a sign permitting requirement that someone has to pay for a permit to change out the name of a business on an already permitted sign. That’s crap. Recently I heard about a small business owner, a woman, who has her business in gulf gate. She was fined last week by your permitting office because she put up a sticker on the existing sign with her business name without paying money for a permit. This woman is working her tail off already to keep her doors open, and can’t afford your permitting process. So now she has to have the sign for her business flipped over without displaying it. How is that going to support her keeping the doors open. Manatee County doesn’t require a permit to put up a new sticker. But you do. Of course you have no clue that it costs not only your permit fee, but the fees for a professional licensed sign guy to drive there to get it, so now it’s $200.00 to put up a sticker. This lady was in tears, and I don’t blame her a bit. I guess Sarasota County needs to tax their citizens to death to pay for all of their continued poor decisions and seeking fines for smoking just fills the pot that much more. I hope you lose 14 Million dollars in tourism to Manatee County. Trust me I get it! I hope your Grand Kids become smokers and won’t visit you on the beach. Maybe even you might have a granddaughter who will do a little flirting with a Sheriff Deputy while someone litters and it doesn’t get caught. Pissed off Taxpayer

Just Another...............

Waste of time & tax payers money! The cost associated with creating the ban & signage is just another waste of tax payers money. I for one would rather see enforcement of the other numerous infractions that occur on our beachs. I think enforcing the littering would be a much more feasable attempt to keep the beachs clean. That would apply to a smoker that leaves butts behind. I for one smoke, I never leave butts behind anywhere. I will continue to smoke at the beachs. I have had a few approach me and attempt to inform me of the "rule." I briefly inform them of my rights. This "rule" just gives the busy bodies something to do. Being I had one fellow recently ask me to stop smoking & claimed he was allergic. He was 30 yards upwind of me in 15 knot winds. It was totally impossible that he was affected by my smoking, yet he still tried and then informed me of the "rule." He was from New York & I am a native of 40+ years. I for one if ever sited for smoking on the beach will challange it in court as I did with a unrealistic parking violation that I recieved once at a local beach & won! BTW> Regarding that parking violation they must be instructed to issue these even know they are not enforcable. They count on the mass of people that are cited just paying the small 25.00 instead of challanging the validity of the citation. I for one was looking forward to my case with all the research and laws that I had on hand to defend myself. Unfortunate the county is very aware of this "scam" and dismissed my case before it even started. I continue to fall prey to their "scam", and every time I am issued a citation I request court, & every time it's dismissed before I get to speak. SHAMELESS!

It's total BS!

If you look at the signage on the beachs, there is no law or ordinance regulation number. There is something that mimics such and made to look like the "legal" signs that make patrons aware of a possible violation. I think the attempt is to scare people from smoking on the beachs. Here is some relative information regaring such....... "But county attorneys concluded that state law forbids cities and counties from regulating outdoor smoking. The parks department Tuesday said there are no plans to post "No Smoking" signs"............."To bolster its position, the county points to a 2005 legal opinion when Gov. Charlie Crist, who was then the attorney general, wrote that local attempts to regulate smoking "in any way other than that prescribed by the Legislature would be ... of no effect."

I will flick my butts wherever I want

This is just one more step toward complete and total nazi domination by the republicans!!! I should be able to smoke wherever I want and throw my butts wherever I want. I pay taxes and that's what taxes are for. Today, in protest of this new push, I emptied my ash tray on the street at a red light, on 66th street. Tomorrow I'll empty it at city hall. I envite all the mnf'ers to join me in this protest against tyrrany!

Not the friendly town I grew up in anymore

Having been born in Sarasota 57 years ago, I have seen many changes. This used to be a place you could park your car on Midnight Pass Rd, and walk down to the beach. There were no high-rise hotels and apartment buildings to block the view or restrict access. After a relaxing day at the beach, we would gather some driftwood and start a fire around which we sat and played guitar, have a few beers or wine, and generally have a good time. we weren't hurting anyone or anything. Sometimes the deputies might come along and just chat with us..... Now, we would all get arrested for such an occurence. Sarasota has lost it's way, and I, and my wife, can hardly wait to get out of here. We have ten acres in north FL which we can build a fire if we want, and play guitar if I want, and have a few beers or some wine, IF WE WANT. Enforce the littering rules that have been around forever. A smoking ban is foolishness and was conceived of by people with tunnel vision. Just one more way to regulate the populace out of here. My wife and I surrender, we're outa here. It was fun years and years ago. Bye

Turtle Beach rules

Smoking on the beach. More important than smoking on the Sarasota beaches is the trash thats left behind. Turtle beach has more butts per square yard than any other beach. There are no signs prohibiting smoking, and it is unenforceable. I object to paople burying their buttd in the sanf(cigarette butts). Also at Turtle people park in fron of the dune paths making it difficult for strollers, wheelchairs to pass by. Those people will be the first to complain about a scratch on their vehicle. On a busy day, why can't the police make a couple of runs thru that area? However since there there are not any signs signfying a no parking area, it would be a waste of time. Turtle beach is a uncontrolled area and some people who use the area do not have the courtesy or common sense to follow rules. Please stay home.


I visited Siesta Key beach last weekend and will not go again. I cannot believe I can't smoke on a beach. That is the dumbest thing I have heard. I visit beaches regularly and I dispose of my butts always. I live in Florida and I love exploring beaches and bringing out of town visitors, but not anymore. I won't even recommend. I understand the reasoning as SOME PEOPLE are rude and do drop their butts everywhere. Why not monitor these people and fine them when you see them dispose of their butts on the beach? There are plenty of law officers monitoring what I am drinking! I love visiting Siesta Key but if I have to walk all the way to a designated smoking area....forget it. I won't be back. Ridiculous.