MIAMI
02/22/2013 10:34 am ET Updated Feb 22, 2013

Public Smoking Ban In Florida Introduced By New Senate Bill

It may soon be illegal to light up in Florida parks and beaches.

Thursday, Florida's Senate Regulated Industries Committee unanimously approved a smoking ban in outdoor spaces by empowering local cities and counties to pass stricter smoking laws than the state.

The state's Indoor Clean Air Act currently bans smoking inside public buildings and workplaces, except inside bars and tobacconists.

Two years ago, the Florida legislature passed a bill allowing school districts to pass stricter smoking bans than the state.

The new measure, sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, (R-Fleming Island), allows local governments to extend smoke-free zones from public buildings up to 75 feet outside.

These no-smoking areas would have to be clearly marked by signs, which must also provide designated areas where smoking is allowed, according to the new bill.

Although the measure passed unanimously on Thursday with the support of health organization such as American Heart Association to the Moffitt Cancer Center, there was some pushback from one interest group: restaurants.

Richard Turner, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association lobbyist, said: “When the smoking ban was passed many businesses spent hundreds of millions of dollars reconfigure their properties to accommodate both the new law and our customers. … we are concerned that some of these ordinances could impact the investments that have been made,” referring to venues that lease public land.

Meanwhile supporters like Sen. Eleanor Sobel (D-Hollywood) believe that the measure could save local government thousands in cleanup money.

In 2009, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom sought to drastically increase a per-pack tax to pay for the estimated $11 million the city spends cleaning up cigarette litter, according to The New York Times.

Cigarette butts' plastic filters are not biodegradable, the New York Times reports. They can also "enter sewers and storm drains, and get swept into rivers and then out to sea, where they can release toxic chemicals including nicotine, benzene and cadmium."

But environmental and public health are hardly priorities in state like Florida where it's perfectly legal to ride a motorcycle without a helmet.

But baby steps?

“This state wants to be smoke free, eventually," said Sen. John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine). "This is just one incremental step toward getting there.”

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