At Saturday’s beach clean-up sponsored by the Beach and Coastal Resources Advisory Committee, ugly, yucky cigarette butts were the most collected small toxic item littering the beach. For the past year, the Committee has collected and counted their monthly collection of cigarette butts as a form of data collection.
In past years, single use plastic drinking straws was on the top of their trash leader board. Since the ban on the use of plastic straws came into effect last year, their number has dwindled. Businesses have switched to more environmentally friendly biodegradable corn-based drinking straws.
Cigarette butts have been a constant problem for Marco’s beaches for a long time. They are small and easily concealed underneath the sane; easily mistaken by wildlife for food and their filters are slow to degrade. The filters also contain toxins such as tar, arsenic, ammonia and formaldehyde.
For many years, Naples Mayor Bill Barnett has been working on an outdoor smoking ban in parks, playgrounds, athletic fields and at the pier. In November 2016, the Naples City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the ban. But Florida law prohibits the ban to outdoor smoking without support from the State Legislature. Cities and counties are powerless to ban smoking.
State Senator Joe Gruters from Sarasota has a “goal to get butts off of beaches.” He has filed a bill (SB 218) for consideration that would make it illegal for people to smoke on Florida’s public beaches. Under his proposal, law enforcement officers will be able to issue citations to people who smoke on public beaches and penalties would be fines up to $25 or 10 hours of community service. The Naples City Attorney has sent a letter of support on behalf of Mayor Barnett.
Coastal expert, Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman (“Dr. Beach”) has been rating the country’s beaches for 25 years. In 2017, he has started awarding an extra bonus for smoke-free beaches. Half of his seaside destinations are beaches that are completely smoke-free. Dr. Beach stated that there is a national movement to prohibit smoking, especially on public lands and beaches, and it should be a community priority.
Just think about it – Marco’s beaches may soon be butt-free and parents will also be worry-free when their children play in the sand and build sand castles. Often enough, cigarette butts are mixed in with the sand and have to be picked up by hand and discarded. Just because you are out in the open does not mean that second hand smoke isn’t blowing directly in your or your child’s face. Florida remains one of just 10 U.S. states without statewide smoking bans. Can you say, Big Tobacco! They have been the loudest voice testifying against any smoking ban.
Please save the date: Beach clean-up on March 9th at 8 AM at South Beach, sponsored by Marco Island’s Sail and Power Squadron.