PANAMA CITY BEACH — Thinking of a relaxing sunset stroll on the beach with a glass of wine in one hand and a cigarette in the other?
Officials say don’t even think about lighting up here.
City officials discussed at their council meeting Tuesday morning a stance to make it illegal to smoke cigarettes and even vape on city beaches.
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Mayor Mark Sheldon told city council he had asked for the issue to be addressed, adding: “I support it. I would like us to take a stand.”
Told it would be difficult to enforce, he replied, “Yes, we know. Same goes for speeding.”
The council has asked city prosecutors to write an order for them to consider banning cigarettes and even e-cigarettes.
“Cigarette butts are a ubiquitous, long-lasting, and toxic form of marine debris,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
They are also difficult to remove from sandy beaches.
“They have to do 10 or 15 passes with a rake,” Councilman Paul Casto said of the beach cleanup crews.
City Attorney Amy E. Myers told the council that cigarettes and vapes may be banned by Florida House Bill 105 under the Florida Clean Air Act, but unfiltered cigars may not.
The bill passed the House in February and the Senate in March, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis on June 24, and became law on July 1.
Councilman Michael Jarman pointed out that the law “passed overwhelmingly through the state legislature” and he asked the attorneys to “work something out.”
“I think most people will comply,” Councilor Mary Coburn said.
The mayor agreed.
“We live on the most beautiful beach in the world and (cigarettes thrown on the beach are) not the image we want,” Sheldon said.
Casto asked if violators would face fines similar to those for “glass or dogs on the beach.”
Myers pointed out that the first offense could amount to a $50 fine.