FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (WKRG) — The Fort Walton Beach City Council is banning smoking and vaping at all city parks and beaches. The new ordinance passed on the first reading Tuesday, Oct. 25 comes after a 3 to 4 year battle in the Florida legislature to let city governments regulate smoking laws.
City manager Micheal Beedie said this has been a long-term project for the city.
“It got a little further each year and finally this year there were some powerhouses in the House and Senate that sponsored this bill and they made it all the way through eh legislative process and were signed into law by the governor,” said Beedie.
The new ordinance will completely prohibit smoking and vaping at parks and public beaches, except for the use of filterless cigars (expempted by the state legislature.) City Council had the option to look at adding designated smoking areas in the parking lots at city parks, but that failed with the passing of the first reading.
Beedie said the main focus of this new ordinance is the litter left behind by filtered smoking products.
“Litter was a huge issue when this bill was brought up. You know the filters are always on the ground and it takes our service workers a lot of time to pick up and clean up in the parks.,” said Beedie.
The official ordinance reads: “Smoking in Parks Prohibited. Smoking and/or the use of vapor-generating devices within the boundaries of any public park or public beaches within the City limits is prohibited as authorized by Chapter 386.209, F.S. Unfiltered cigars are exempt
from this provision.”
Enforcement of the smoking ban
The ordinance still has to pass the second reading before it is fully in place. Fort Walton Beach Police Chief Robert Bage said they will put up notices and give a 30-day grace period before issuing civil citations.
“It would be a multi-teared approach,” said Chief Bage. “The first thing is to put signage up at the parks. We would probably do an educational campaign if we saw people in the park when they come to sign up for different sporting events or gatherings. We’d pass out some type of literature. We would start with encouragement.”
Fort Walton Beach has 18 public parks and beaches listed with a corresponding map online.