Should we ban smoking at all Florida beaches?
The measure would ban smoking on the state’s 663 miles of beaches. If approved in the upcoming legislative session, violators will be subject to a $25 fine, 10 hours of community service or being boiled alive.
I’m kidding about that last one, though King James hated smoking so much he might have sent repeat offenders to the Tower of London.
About 5.6 trillion filtered cigarettes are consumed a year, according to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Studies show that about 75 percent of them are then tossed on the ground or out windows.
Bottom Line: Kudos on the creative writing. Yes, there’s a bill that’ll be considered in this year’s state session that would ban smoking cigarettes at the beach. As a non-smoker and buttressed by a wife who has asthma, it's an easy no brainer for me to say, "yep let’s do it".
Three-quarters of cigarette butts end up on the ground, now that's a strong argument. If you spend time around public beaches, even the well-maintained ones, you've seen them. But, here’s the thing that I’ve yet heard adequately addressed by the advocates of the ban on this topic. Tourism, especially international tourism.
If you don’t smoke and you travel around Europe, you’ll notice something. It seems like everyone is always smoking and it’s hard to get away from it in public areas. Travel to beaches and it’s even worse. True story, five years ago we stayed in a luxury beach front-hotel in Barcelona but never went to the beach because of the smoke and crush of people making it impossible to get away from it.
According to Visit Florida, for the previous year, 14.3 million international tourists visited our state including 10.9 million from overseas. That’s a lot of folks coming here for sun and fun and a many smokes along the way. With the recent declines in traditional cigarette smoking, the US now ranks 69th in smoking rates. That means that much of the world, including all of Asia and nearly all of Europe, smokes far more than Americans do. In fact, my rough estimate of where our beach tourists come from suggests that the average international visitor is 67% more likely to smoke than the average American. That leads me to my final point.
What are the implications of the beach butt bans with foreign tourists? Are we inclined to fine them if it’s passed? Are we dedicated to following through to collect if we do? Are we willing to upset our visitors that are critical to Florida’s economy and endure the negative publicity it’ll make in the foreign press? If the answer is yes to all of those questions forge ahead. If this is the first time this thought has crossed your mind, you haven’t even begun to credibly ponder the implications.
Photo by: PASCAL POCHARD-CASABIANCA/AFP/Getty Images