Outdoor Smoking Ban Raises Questions about Enforcement, Overreach

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A ban on smoking in Winter Park’s outdoor leisure areas passed its second reading at the Dec. 13 commission meeting, but not before residents and one commissioner voiced objections.

Florida statute 386.209 originally placed smoking regulations in the hands of the state legislature until 2022, when it was changed to allow local enforcement of outdoor smoking restrictions. In Winter Park, the specific areas affected by the ban are parks and outdoor venues owned or operated by the city. But thanks to a provision in the state statute that prohibits the restriction of unfiltered cigars, the ban solely affects cigarette smoking and vaping.

According to Parks & Recreation director Jason Seeley, outdoor smoking will be a Level 1 violation that could result in an assessed fee if verbal warnings are regularly ignored. With the passage of the ordnance, staff will be placing “No Smoking” signage as a means of enforcement in high-traffic areas.

City commission passed the first reading of the ordinance by a 4-1 majority on Nov. 8 with Commissioner Kris Cruzada as the only dissenting vote. He elaborated on his reasoning during the second reading on Dec. 13.

“You have an exception to the exception for unfiltered tobacco,” he said. “It just doesn’t seem to be too health conscious – I can’t regulate (cigars) because the state says I can’t, but I can regulate filtered cigarettes.” He also questioned the ban as a general deterrent to smoking as more effective messaging exists in the media.

Commissioner Todd Weaver, who supports the ban as an environmental concern, read a list of chemicals – including ammonia, arsenic, formaldehyde, and butane – that are concentrated in cigarette filters and can end up in city lakes.

“To have that concentrated and then wash into our storm drains and ultimately in our lakes; there’s nothing we can do short of this (ordinance) to preclude those pollutants from going into the environment.”

The conversation continued when the agenda item was opened for public comments. Residents Gigi Papa and Hattie Bryant both stated that commissioners have not presented hard evidence to support the ordinance, and cited the ban as an example of government overreach. “This is the definition, for me, for government overreach,” said Papa. “We don’t have a problem but we’re going to have an ordinance for a problem we don’t have.”

Bryant also spoke against posting signage for legislation that cannot be properly enforced, and equated the ban to the city ordinance barring dogs from Central Park. “You can’t or you don’t enforce the dog law, how do you expect to enforce a no smoking outside law?”

Seeley later stated that the ordinance originated with an item, brought before the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board in 2022 by a representative from Tobacco Free Florida. When asked by Mayor Phil Anderson if any hard data supporting a ban was presented to the board, Seeley was unable to confirm. Anderson then made a motion to table the vote on the second reading until supporting data could be researched. The motion to table was seconded by Cruzada, but not supported by the rest of commission. A motion to approve the second reading was then passed by the same 4-1 majority as the first reading.

City of Winter Park Communications director Clarissa Howard told the32789 that there are currently no plans to hire additional staff for ordinance enforcement, and signage will be placed in public areas affected by the ban between mid-January and February.

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