POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Following in the footsteps of other Tampa Bay area cities and counties, Polk County may make public and county-owned parks smoke-free after a vote next week.
“I think it’s a good idea to limit that habit, especially around the woodlands, to eliminate fire,” said Scott West, who was painting a landscape inside Circle B Bar Reserve Friday.
Jane Knopf said she has caught little children trying to put cigarette butts in their mouths at parks.
“People do not throw them away that they’re supposed to so it is a really big environmental hazard to our local birds and stuff and a lot of the endangered species we have here,” she said.
The view of Bruce Wolfgram, who winters in Polk County, is that county officials should “butt” out.
“It seems a bit excessive. It seems like when you’re out in the fresh air you should be able to do what you want, as long as you are responsible about throwing away the smoking materials. Don’t litter and don’t start any fires,” he said.
Next Tuesday, following a public hearing, county commissioners will vote on whether to ban smoking and vaping at public parks.
After a change in state law, which gave cities and counties the discretion to pass such an ordinance, Sarasota County and the city of Clearwater banned smoking at their beaches.
“Outdoors should be a smoke-free zone. It is a public facility,” said Commissioner George Lindsey.
Commissioner Lindsey said he was presented with the idea for the ban by a youth group called “SWAT,” Students Working Against Tobacco.
He worked with the county attorney and sheriff’s office to get it on the agenda next week.
“Nobody’s going to get arrested for doing it but it’s giving the public notice and adding a little peer pressure to behave in a responsible manner around kids in open air,” said Commissioner Lindsey.
The public hearing on the smoking ban is scheduled for Tuesday at the regular county commission meeting in Bartow.