St. George Island beachgoers react to Florida’s new smoking ban law

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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) – A new law in Florida aims to reduce cigarette butts in the sand by allowing local governments to restrict or ban smoking on public beaches.

According to data from the Ocean Conservancy, cigarette butts are the most common trash that volunteers pick up on Florida beaches.

WCTV reporter Savannah Kelley had mixed reactions when speaking to beachgoers on Tuesday.

A woman was really excited about a smoking ban on the beach. On the other hand, another woman, who smokes, felt that this was a restriction of her rights.

“We don’t want litter on our beaches,” says Kara Mawdesly.

“It’s just unpleasant,” says Jane Adkins.

Although Adkins acknowledges that seeing cigarette butts in the sand is disgusting, she thinks a ban isn’t the answer.

“No, I think it’s not good,” she said.

Adkins says she should be allowed to smoke on the beach, as long as she throws her cigarettes in the trash where they belong.

“I just feel like if you’re going to smoke, just be responsible with it,” Adkins says.

New Sunshine State law allows local governments to completely ban smoking on beaches. JP Brooker, director of Florida Conservation at the Ocean Conservancy, says this is good news for beach health.

“Fundamentally what we need is for people to stop treating Florida beaches like their ashtrays,” Brooker says.

Data from the Ocean Conservancy revealed that in just one cleanup day, volunteers picked up more than 150,000 cigarette butts statewide.

But for some people, it’s not just about trash.

“If someone smokes near me, it affects me,” says Mawdesley.

Mawdesley has an autoimmune disease and she says second-hand smoke affects her badly. And at the beach, the wind blows the smoke even further.

She says she is in favor of banning smoking, not only for the environment, but for the health of other bathers.

“It’s just difficult. If someone is smoking near me, I’m going to have to pack up all my stuff and move out,” Mawdesley says.

The law goes into effect Friday, July 1, and local governments are free to adopt their own policies from then on.

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