Despite the yellow "Tobacco Free Area" signs posted at the Gulfport Beach, several smokers lit up their cigars and pipes Saturday morning.
"I think that we have to protect what little rights we do have as smokers period," Rossi Bonugli said.
Bonugli came out to support the peaceful protest. He's been a cigar smoker most of his life and believes a ban on the beach is "going too far."
"I understand not smoking inside, not smoking in restaurants, but no smoking on the beach? You've got to be kidding."
Bonugli heard about the "smoke in" protest from St. Petersburg attorney Andy Strickland. Strickland organized the demonstration and planned to receive a citation for violating the city's no smoking ordinance.
"It takes people to stand up for something that they believe in. I'm looking forward to challenging it after I get cited," Strickland said.
Strickland wants to challenge the citation in Pinellas County Court because he says the city does not have the authority to ban smoking on the beach. He says according to a Florida Statute, the regulation of smoking is up to the state, not local governments.
Regulation of smoking preempted to state. This part expressly preempts regulation of smoking to the state and supersedes any municipal or county ordinance on the subject; however, school districts may further restrict smoking by persons on school district property.
"There's a specific reason why the state Legislature put this preemption clause in the Clean Indoor Act of '85, which was reaffirmed by Florida voters in 2002 when it was amended. Clearly, it gives the state exclusive jurisdiction over this issue it's because we don't want piecemeal ordinances where you can smoke on this beach and this beach."
Despite Strickland's efforts, the demonstration did not go as planned. Due to the lack of proper signage on the beach, Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent previously advised officers not to ticket smokers.
In an interview with Gulfport Patch on Friday, Vincent said several yellow "Tobacco Free Area" signs are posted, but the large brown signs that list the ordinances and other bans on the beach are not updated yet. For now, he's advised officers to warn people of the new ordinance and document that a person has been warned.
During the demonstration a Gulfport Police officer patrolled the beach but did not write any citations.
Strickland plans to hold another "smoke in" once the proper signs are in place.
"When does this type of regulation and big brother stuff come to an end?" Strickland said.