St. George Island beachgoers react to new Florida law allowing smoking ban

Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 5:04 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 28, 2022 at 6:35 PM EDT
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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) - A new law in Florida aims to cut down on cigarette butts in the sand by allowing local governments to restrict or ban smoking on public beaches.

According to data from the ocean conservancy, cigarette butts are the most common piece of trash volunteers pick up on Florida beaches.

WCTV reporter Savannah Kelley got mixed reactions when speaking to beachgoers on Tuesday.

One woman was really excited at the possibility of a ban against smoking on the beach. On the flip side, another woman, who is a smoker, felt it was a restriction on her rights.

“We do not want litter on our beaches,” says Kara Mawdesly.

“It’s just nasty,” Jane Adkins says.

Although Adkins agrees that seeing cigarette butts in the sand is gross, she believes the ban isn’t the answer.

“No, I think that’s not good,” she says.

Adkins says she should be allowed to smoke on the beach, as long as she throws her cigarettes in the trash, where they belong.

“I just feel like if you’re gonna smoke, just be responsible with it,” Adkins says.

The new law in the Sunshine State allows local governments to ban smoking on beaches entirely. J.P. Brooker, the director of Florida Conservation at the Ocean Conservancy, says this is good news for the beaches’ health.

“Basically what we need is for people to stop treating Florida beaches like their ashtrays,” Brooker says.

Data from the Ocean Conservancy found that on a single day of cleanup, volunteers picked up more than 150,000 cigarette butts across the state.

But for some folks, it’s not just about litter.

“If someone’s smoking near me, it affects me,” Mawdesley says.

Mawdesley has an autoimmune disease, and she says secondhand smoke affects her severely. And at the beach, the wind makes smoke travel even farther.

She says she’s in favor of banning smoking, not just for the environment, but for the health of other beachgoers.

“It’s just hard. If someone’s smoking near me, I’m gonna have to pick up all my stuff and move,” Mawdesley says.

The law goes into effect on Friday, July 1, and local governments are free to enact their own policies from there.

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