Fort Lauderdale embraces smoking ban at beach and parks

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Not one soul stormed City Hall to protest a ban on smoking at Fort Lauderdale’s beach and city parks.

The ban won unanimous approval recently but will not kick in until a final commission vote in October.

Those caught lighting up or vaping could face a fine up to $500 and/or sentenced to 60 days in jail.

Fort Lauderdale and other coastal cities have wanted to ban smoking at the beach for years, but were blocked from doing so by a state law that gave that power to Florida legislators alone.

That all changed on July 1 after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new bill into law giving cities the right to outlaw smoking at the beach.

Fort Lauderdale is not the only coastal city to consider a smoking ban.

Pompano Beach has already imposed a smoking ban at its beach and parks. So has Miami Beach, though the ban won’t take effect until January. Other cities planning a ban include Deerfield Beach, Boca Raton and Delray Beach.

“This is a long time coming,” Mayor Dean Trantalis said Thursday night before the Fort Lauderdale commission cast its vote.

Commissioner Robert McKinzie said he had no problem banning smoking but made note of the fact that the police are already busy enough enforcing other laws.

“We need to think about how we can enforce this without taking away from public safety,” he said.

Trantalis argued in favor of the ban, saying it would pave the way for “No Smoking” signs at the beach.

“At least we’ll have a law on the books,” he said. “I do think we should have that tool in our toolbox.”

Commissioner Steve Glassman, whose district includes the beach, urged the city to embark on an education program to spread awareness about the new ban.

“We don’t want the beach overrun with police looking for people smoking,” he said in a nod to McKinzie’s concerns.

Community activist Stan Eichelbaum praised the city for moving forward with the ban.

“You go to the beach to enjoy swimming and sunshine,” he told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “People think they’re going to have a wonderful day. Then someone comes and sits down next to them and starts smoking and they have to move.”

Eichelbaum says he’d like to see the smoking ban expanded to sidewalks and even bars and restaurants near the beach.

At least one person out there has a problem with the ban, and that’s Audrey Silk, founder of the Brooklyn-based smoking rights group NYC C.L.A.S.H., or Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment.

“As I predicted and have since witnessed here in New York City, bad laws such as this fade into oblivion,” she said. “Compliance and enforcement wanes toward non-existence.”