Ban on smoking cigarettes in Panama City Beach, vaping takes its first steps

PANAMA CITY BEACH – It may soon be illegal to light a cigarette or puff a vape in certain areas of the beach.

The Panama City Beach City Council on Thursday approved the first reading of an ordinance banning smoking and vaping in city parks, public beach accesses and along the sandy beach within 400 feet of Russell-Fields Pier.

“It’s not (for) the entire beach, (but in some) city-controlled areas,” Councilman Michael Jarman said.

Previous story:Panama City Beach may ban vapes and cigarettes on the beach

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The council is able to consider such an ordinance thanks to Florida House Bill 105, which allows local governments to ban smoking and vaping on beaches and in parks.

The bill passed the House in February and the Senate in March, before being signed by Governor Ron DeSantis on June 24 and becoming law on July 1.

Unfiltered cigars were exempt from state law. This means that if the Panama City Beach ordinance is approved, people could still smoke cigars in all areas of the city where cigarettes and vapes are banned.

The only exceptions for smoking and vaping in these areas would be during certain special events, smoking sites designated by the city manager, and from inside a car.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “Cigarette butts are an invasive, long-lasting, and toxic form of marine debris.”

Officials also said they were difficult to remove from the sandy beach.

The first reading of the local smoking ban passed 3-2. Jarman, Mayor Mark Sheldon and Councilman Paul Casto were in favor of the ban, while council members Phil Chester and Mary Coburn were not.

A second reading will take place at the November 10 city council meeting.

“I think it’s a very elite law that Tallahassee gave us to allow unfiltered cigars and not cigarettes (and vaping),” Coburn said. “I’m not a smoker, (and) I would like to encourage people not to smoke…but I just feel like it really infringes on our personal freedoms.”

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