Floridians love their beaches.
Their atmosphere is a reason why many northerners move to Florida to work or attend colleges like USF, and it’s a critical component of the state’s tourism industry and the millions of jobs that depend upon it.
It’s also why serious threats to the beauty of Florida’s beaches, such as offshore drilling or lesser pollution like trash, have led to offshore drilling bans and, recently, moves to address cigarette butts that often dot the shoreline.
Exemplifying pragmatism and fairness, the St. Petersburg City Council is working to designate smoking sections on the beach and create laws targeting tobacco waste, according to Bay News 9.
Because beaches are outside, smoke from cigarettes dissipates relatively quickly – especially with the windy sea breezes that define most beaches – so smoking concerns would be tempered.
Yet, irresponsible smokers will inevitably leave their cigarette butts by their sand castles and smoke unnecessarily close to others beachgoers.
Changes to city ordinances that designate smoking areas away from the majority of people would be ideal, keeping cigarette butts to one area that’s easier to clean up while forcing inconsiderate smokers to keep their secondhand smoke – however quickly it’s dispersed – to a defined area away from those sensitive to smoke.
Most importantly, smoking areas could feature ashtrays, making it easier to throw away cigarette butts.
Because of state law, the city cannot totally ban smoking on beaches, as many would like.
However, this may be for the best, as a total ban of smoking would go too far by not allowing the nearly 1 in 4 Americans who smoke a chance to do so on any part of the beach.
Some smokers are responsible individuals, removing themselves from large groups of people before they smoke and extinguishing and discarding their cigarette butts when they’re finished.
It’s not fair that these individuals have to face consequences for others who don’t have the same courtesy.
The city council certainly won’t ban eating or drinking on beaches because of the trash produced, so banning smoking would unfairly target this demographic. Nonetheless, because of secondhand smoke, designating separate sections is a good idea.
A large number of adults smoke tobacco, which won’t change in the foreseeable future. It’s encouraging that steps can still be taken to reduce their negative impact while preserving individual freedoms.
The St. Petersburg City Council’s proposed solution is ideal to combat the problems associated with smoking on the beach and can serve as a meaningful blueprint for other political leaders who control Florida’s beaches.