The world may be your oyster, but the beach is not your ashtray.
Seashells, seaweed and greasy tourists are common sights on the many beaches of Florida. However, none are as prevalent as the abundance of litter that resides on the shorelines. Of all of the trash found on the beach, cigarette butts are the most common and arguably, some of the most preventable forms of marine litter. A Florida bill, if passed in the upcoming March legislative session, may help lower the presence of butts on the beach.
The proposed bill, presented by Republican Senator Joe Gruters of Sarasota, would outlaw smoking tobacco on public beaches and punish violators with a $25 fine or up to 10 hours of community service. If passed, the bill would take effect on July 1 of this year.
It may seem like common sense to pass this bill, but it has been getting a lot of backlash from the general public. In the comment section of a Tampa Bay Times article, many Floridians are criticizing the bill for infringing upon the personal rights of citizens.
Of all of the trash found on the beach, cigarette butts are the most common.
“What an IDIOT,” commenter Robert Schultz said. “This from a member of a party that is always sprouting ‘personal freedom,’ but wants to pass laws that infringe on our freedoms. GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!!”
Frankly, it is pointless to have this argument. Part two of chapter 386 of the Florida Statutes— which is the chapter this bill would be added to— already prohibits smoking tobacco in all enclosed workspaces, with a few exceptions. Florida’s beaches would just be one more addition to the restrictions. The bill would also exclude marijuana and e-cigarettes, so those who are worried about their rights can feed their nicotine addiction by becoming law-abiding citizens and bringing their Juul to the beach instead. The angry commenters are also completely overlooking the benefits to this smoking ban.
It is drilled into everyone’s head that smoking is bad for you, especially with cigarettes. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 38 million adults in the United States smoke every day or almost every day. By banning smoking in more places, that number could potentially be reduced.
The cigarette ban is also very beneficial to the health of the public. An American College of Cardiology study found that cigarette bans reduce the risk of heart attacks in nonsmokers and reduce the number of heart attacks by 26 percent per year. Considering that second-hand cigarette smoke increases one’s risk of a heart attack, it is absurd to disagree with a cigarette ban that will help people and make the community healthier.
Gulf Shores, Alabama and New Jersey have already gone smoke-free.
Cigarettes are not just harmful to humans, but they are detrimental to the environment. As mentioned before, cigarette butts are the most common form of litter found on the beach, meaning that all of the nasty toxins and chemicals found inside of them will eventually find their way into the ocean. A San Diego State University study found that smoked cigarettes had the highest toxicity and killed 50 percent of the fish in the liter of water it was tested in.
With incredibly high toxicity and an estimated 4.5 trillion being littered every year, cigarettes need to be banned from the beach. Gulf Shores, Alabama
Cigarettes are tiny cylinders filled with nasty chemicals that harm both those who smoke them and those around them. While some may be unhappy with the bill, it isn’t a reason to jeopardize non-smokers and the oceans with their toxic chemicals. The proposed cigarette ban will benefit Floridians and their state’s many shores.
Photo by Kayla Florenco