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State legislator wants to ban smoking on public beaches

November 7, 2019
By NATHAN MAYBERG ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

A bill put forward by State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, would kick the butts of smokers away from the sands of the public's oceanfronts and out of public parks.

Gruters, who also is the Florida Republican Party chairman, put forth the same bill during the previous legislative session in January but it failed to garner enough support. The bill is currently in committee and if it passes, would go up for a vote in the 60-day session starting January.

Gruters filed the latest legislation Oct. 25, one of 15 bills he has authored or co-authored in advance of the 2020 legislative session since September.

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Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce President Jacki Liszak said she is "just learning about it," and will be in contract with her membership to discuss the proposed bill. Liszak said the chamber will send a delegation to Tallahassee during the next state legislative session in January, where it will lobby the legislature on matters important to the business community.

Town of Fort Myers Beach Manager Roger Hernstadt said Town Council will likely ask for input on the proposed bill from its Marine Resource Committee.

At the beach this week, a majority of the visitors were leaning towards supporting the bill with a larger share saying that smokers need to clean up after themselves.

"The proper disposal of the cigarette butt is key," said Patrick Hayes, of Minnesota.

"I prefer it if they don't (smoke)," said Joakim Ekeblad, of Sweden.

"It would be one thing if you take care of your butts, if there was a way to take care of your debris," said his wife, Nina. "Most people do not."

Marshall Lindke, a Michigan resident who visits Fort Myers Beach every year with his wife, said the proposed law is "all right by us." In Michigan, "you can't smoke in state parks. You can't smoke at your grandkid's soccer games," Lindke said.

Scott Neill, who was visiting the beach from Cincinnati with his wife and daughter, supports the smoking ban.

"I'm against public smoking in any public space quite honestly," he said.



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