Parks and beaches no place to light up

photo of John Michael Pierobon By: John Michael Pierobon

Smoke-free state parks and beaches enjoy tremendous popular support. A recent statewide poll of 1058 likely voters, conducted thanks to the generosity of the Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation, shows 70 percent of Florida voters favor a ballot initiative to prohibit the use of cigarettes and other tobacco products on beaches and in state parks.

The poll also found 89 percent of Florida voters believe second-hand smoke is harmful to children, and 72 percent believe their local governments should have the right to prohibit smoking in public places wherever children may be present. While the data seems to conclude that the vision of a "Tobacco Free Florida" is within reach, the unfortunate reality is that some in our state Legislature do not share the same vision because of the extent of the tobacco lobby's influence.

Big Tobacco employs nearly one hundred lobbyists in our state capital.

If Floridians were truly in charge of their government, state beaches, parks, and child play areas would already be smoke-free. Big Tobacco’s defeat of state Rep. Katie Edwards’ bill last year is a perfect example of why a ballot initiative is necessary. Her bill would have amended the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act to allow municipalities to restrict smoking in child play areas.

The survey also found that 75 percent of Florida voters are concerned about cigarette litter. Cigarette butts are the No. 1 source of litter found on beaches. Cigarette butts are difficult and costly to remove, and they destroy the aesthetics of the landscape as well as the ecosystem.

Every case study performed on the economic impact of a smoke-free environment, including a University of Chicago study on the FCIAA, shows revenues increased as a result of such policies. Smoke-free state parks and beaches make economic sense.

Florida competes with other states for tourism. Beaches and parks on beautiful tropical islands including Oahu, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, are smoke-free. Elsewhere in the country, major tourist destinations are adopting to the change in the air. The entire state of Maine, and cities in California, Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and South Carolina already prohibit smoking on their beaches. Why should Florida be left behind?

Please join us, a group of concerned citizens, in building a grassroots campaign to make all Florida beaches and state parks smoke-free.

John Michael Pierobon is an Internet consultant based in Fort Lauderdale.
John Michael may be reached by sending electronic mail to

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