Gulfport came once step closer to banning smoking on city beaches. However, instead of limiting smoking only on beaches, the proposed rule will now also apply to play areas frequented by children.
At Thursday's City Council Workshop at Gulfport City Call, council members discussed Ordinance 2011-13, which initially asked the city council to "adopt a reasonable ordinance to make the City of Gulfport's beach area tobacco-free."
"Sarasota tried the education route. Sarasota tried the fine route. There were three different things Sarasota tried," Hastings said. "And nothing worked."
"Sarasota County then enacted a beach ban ordinance countywide. Since then, two of the cities in there have also joined," Hastings added, "and they felt it has worked."
"There's tons and tons of health reasons why," Hastings said. "Now—believe it or not—they have come out with something called 'third-hand' smoke."
"That is smoke that actually would sit on an outside bench," Hastings said. "Residual nicotine and other chemicals left on a variety of surfaces by tobacco smoke."
"The only way to protect non-smokers from third-hand smoke is with a smoke-free environment," he added.
Council Member Sam Henderson wanted to clarify his position on a smoking ban.
"I don’t think anyone is doubting the health issues in any way," Henderson said. "I don’t think we are as far apart as it has been laid out."
Henderson was referring to the September 6 council meeting where he raised a concern about a ban on smoking and the impact on "people's rights." It gave many a feeling that he would be opposed to Hastings' proposal.
In the workshop, Henderson repeated his opinion that it was "unfair to say all smokers are litterbugs," but he was open to look at a limited ordinance prohibiting smoking. He said he would consider a way that would include beaches and public areas frequented by children, with perhaps a one-year test run. The probationary period would be to assess the extent and costs of enforcement of such a ban.
"I'm trying to meet you guys in the middle," Henderson said. "I'm not going to vote for every park in the city."
All of the council members agreed that a smoking ordinance, which reached beyond the beaches but limited to children's play areas, was a "good start."
Mayor Mike Yakes suggested that some areas, such as Clam Bayou and Veteran's park, would be made exempt from becoming a tobacco-free area.
"I don’t support Clam Bayou on the basis is that is a fishing place where people do put a pole in hand and try to catch a fish and relax," Yakes said. "That is an adult place."
Ordinance 2011-13 is expected to return to a vote by Gulfport City Council sometime next month. The council agreed that the ordinance would have two main goals: to protect children from second-hand—or third-hand—smoke, and to reduce litter on Gulfport's beaches and recreation areas used by children.
The next step is public input and a vote. The Gulfport City Council will meet again on October 4, 2011 at 7 p.m. Gulfport City Hall is located at 2401 53rd St. S.