CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) — The city of Clearwater is moving closer to banning smoking and vaping on city-owned public parks and beaches. It comes a year after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a law that allows cities and counties to decide if they want to enforce a smoking ban.
Cigarette butts are the most littered item found on beaches. The city said a possible ban would protect beachgoers and marine life.
People come to Clearwater Beach because of the white sand, fresh air and beautiful views.
“Protect the ocean protect the beaches, it’s a great vacation spot, so I think we should take of it,” said Chris Corcione, from New York.
Every second Friday of each month, the local grassroots organization, Ocean Allies, partners up with Amplify, the City, Visit St. Pete-Clearwater, and Keep Pinellas Beautiful to host a city clean-up. She said more than 75 people show up to volunteer each time.
“They’ll have bags and say I have never seen so many cigarette butts in my life,” said Sheri Heilman, founder of Ocean Allies.
They plan to host a larger event on Oct. 14 and she’s expecting hundreds of people to show up. The ban would include cigarettes, vapes and e-cigarettes, but would not include unfiltered cigars.
“I just don’t see why we don’t have station set up or smoking areas,” said Charles McFadden from Kentucky.
Heilman said the butts don’t disintegrate. They stay with us for hundreds of years releasing toxic chemicals.
The city of Clearwater does a phenomenal job of cleaning up the beach every single morning, but the machines that they use just can’t get out to those butts,” said Heilman.
Heilman wants to see the smoking ban pass but also said we need to come up with a solution.
“At ocean allies, we are educators, and what we need to do as a better job of educating people, and providing them with places to put the cigarette butts instead of just throwing them out the window of the car or throwing them onto the beach,” she said.
The city of St. Petersburg already implemented a similar smoking ban.
“We do care about our beach,” said Heilman. “We care about our whole city because we want this to be the number one beach for years to come for all the right reasons we have to keep working and trying to do something more every single day.”
Clearwater City Council is expected to vote on the smoking ban on Monday. If passed, it’ll immediately go into effect. News Channel 8 is still working to find out how the ban would be enforced.