By: John Michael PierobonJohn Michael Pierobon is an Internet consultant based in Fort Lauderdale.
Benefits of tobacco-free outdoor recreational areas are numerous.
Health benefits include protection of all from harmful secondhand smoke exposure, protection of young children from toxic cigarette butts and other tobacco litter, and a positive role model for youth. One in four children in Florida report being subjected to secondhand smoke while at the beach or playing in a park.
Benefits to the environment include reduced tobacco litter, cleaner waterways and oceans, protection of marine and wildlife from toxic tobacco litter, and reduced risk of fires. According to the United Nations International Maritime Organization, 177 species of marine animals and 111 species of shorebirds are affected by tobacco litter, causing unnecessary malnutrition, starvation, and death. Tobacco litter has been found in the stomachs of fish, birds, whales, and other animals who mistake it for food.
Tobacco product waste is not just cigarette butts; it also includes plastic lighters, cigarette packets, pouches, snus, cigar butts, etc.
Cleanup costs related to tobacco litter removal consume a substantial amount of tax dollars. Estimates for major cities range from $3 million to $16 million per year.
Today there are more cigarette butts on the beaches of Broward County than on the beaches of half a dozen West African nations combined. About one third of all litter picked up by volunteers on the Fort Lauderdale beach are cigarette butts.
We should not allow tobacco on our beaches and parks, especially when cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world. We have laws that do not allow dogs in the parks because of dog waste, and laws that do not allow alcohol on beaches because intoxicated people tend to leave their cans and bottles in the sand.
Tobacco litter on our beaches and in our parks is difficult and expensive to clean up, is harmful to our health, drives away tourists, and pollutes the environment. This is why states from Hawaii to Maine, and even Puerto Rico, have outlawed smoking in their state parks and beaches. Florida competes with these states for tourism dollars, and is at a competitive disadvantage because visitors do not like dirty beaches littered with tobacco waste.
More than fifty Florida cities recognize this. They want something done about it, but Florida state law prohibits local entities from enacting tobacco-free outdoor recreational areas.
The Florida Legislature should enact legislation to allow local communities to legally designate tobacco-free outdoor recreational areas, or better yet, make all beaches and state parks tobacco-free.
It would be a very popular measure. A recent statewide poll indicates 70 percent of likely Florida voters want to prohibit the use of cigarettes and other tobacco products on beaches and in state parks.
© 2017 John Michael Pierobon