On Tuesday, October 25, 2022, the Fort Walton Beach city council passed on first reading an ordinance to prohibit smoking within city-owned public parks and beaches.
- This comes after a 3-4 year battle with the state to allow local governments to regulate smoking within public parks and beaches.
- In December 2021, City Manager Michael Beedie lobbied to our Legislative Delegation Board of Directors to pass Senate Bill 224 and House Bill 105.
“This year, there were some powerhouses in the House and Senate that sponsored the bills and they made it all the way through the legislative process and were signed into law by the Governor, to become effective July 1,” said Beedie on Tuesday night.
With the passing of the bills, local governments are now allowed to regulate smoking with the exception of unfiltered cigars. (That was specifically exempted by the legislature.)
- According to Beedie, litter was a huge issue when this bill was brought up and stated that cigarette filters are always on the ground.
- This also bans the use of e-cigarette and vaping products as well.
While this new ordinance for the city was written to totally prohibit smoking in parks and on public beaches, there was an option to create designated smoking areas. It was recommended that if council chose to create these areas that they be limited to the parking area. However, the council decided not to create smoking areas.
- Last December, Beedie said that one of the biggest complaints the City of Fort Walton Beach receives is about smoking that happens near the bleachers during sporting events.
With new rules comes a new enforcement. Fort Walton Beach Police Chief Robert Bage told the council that his department could have signage up within 30 days of passing the ordinance, and would begin the education and awareness process to residents first.
- “We would start with encouragement and we would tell them that the city council passed the ordinance, and now it’s prohibited to use smoking or electronic smoking devices within the park,” said Chief Bage. “From that point, if somebody didn’t want to comply, we’d issue a civil citation. We’d go down the civil citation route first and hopefully the citation would stop any further smoking in the parks.”
This was just the first reading of the new ordinance on Tuesday night. It will still have to pass a second reading before it is fully in place. According to the city, enforcement could potentially begin January 1, 2023.