Session 2013
12:01 pm
Tue January 29, 2013

Hager's Bill Could Ban Smoking At The Beach

A determined Palm Beach County teenager is gaining ground on a big goal -- stopping people from smoking at Florida's beaches and public parks.

NOT AT THE BEACH: State. Rep. Bill Hager of Boca Raton wants to let cities and counties ban smoking at beaches and parks.
Credit billhager.com

Caitlyn Johnston's campaign caught the eye of State. Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, who filed a bill (HB 439) giving cities and counties the power to ban smoking on their own public lands.

Caitlyn, a 17-year-old high school senior form Jupiter -- says she's been an anti-smoking activist since the lung cancer death of her grandfather. She told the Sun Sentinel she also volunteers for beach clean-up events and finds that most of the trash she collects is cigarette butts and other smoking debris.

Johnston said she was hoping for an out-and-out statewide ban on beach and park smoking but realized she would have to compromise on  a smaller goal. "You have big dreams," she told the Sun Sentinel, "and you sort of realize, 'maybe I should bring this down a little.'"

For  Hager, it's all about health. "The verdict is in on second-hand smoke, and the verdict is unequivocal," he said. "The verdict is clear: Second-hand smoke kills people," he said.

Sentinel reporter Tony Man interviewed beachgoers and found that smokers and tobacco retailers oppose the potential ban and nonsmokers seem to favor it:

Joel Bongini, of Wilton Manors, said subjecting people to smoke at the beach is "horrible, especially when people come to the beach and they sit next to you and blow [smoke] in your face." Even when the smoker is at a distance, he said the breeze carries the unpleasant, unhealthy odor a long way. His advice to smokers: "Do it at your own home."

James Gulluscio, a snowbird who spends winters in Fort Lauderdale and summers in Massachusetts, said he used to smoke at the beach. Now he'd like to see a ban. "Being a reformed smoker, I think it's a great idea. I don't care to smell someone else's smoke.

"No smoking" signs are already posted at many city and county parks and braches around the state, but the signs are only advisory. Under existing law, only the state has the power to regulate smoking, Hager's bill, and a similar Senate bill filed by State. Sen. Charles Dean, R-Citrus County, make exceptions for cities and counties.

School districts were the first to get that power. That came in a 2011 Hager bill that got the American Cancer Society to name him freshman legislator of the year.