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'Smoke In' Results in Second Citation for Attorney

St. Petersburg Attorney Andy Strickland received a citation for smoking on the beach during his second peaceful protest on Saturday. Strickland wants to challenge the ban in court.

For the second time this year, Immigration Attorney Andy Strickland deliberately violated the city's no smoking ordinance and received a citation. Strickland believes that the ban is illegal and unconstitutional and wants to challenge the charge in court.

Strickland tried this at least twice before, finally receiving a citation in February. He prepared for his day in court when, to his surprise, the charges were dropped at the discretion of the Gulfport City Manager and City Attorney.

City Attorney Andrew Salzman told Gulfport Patch in a previous story, "We wanted to bring it forward to the Special Master, versus going through the expense of county court.”

That prompted his latest "smoke in" on Saturday.

*****

More than a dozen supporters joined Strickland and lit up their cigars and cigarette's at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 21 at one of the pavilions on the beach.

"Everybody's entitled to their right," Morgan Jones said.

Jones is a Gulfport resident, small business owner and cigar smoker. Jones is a member of Cigar Rights of America and says cigar smokers are being attacked. He says as a smoker, he respects other people and disposes of his cigars properly.

"This is a lifestyle, not a habit," Jones said.

Gulfpor resident Karen Dorn believes the city should reconsider the idea that Teen Council brought forward when leaders were discussing the ban. Members of the Gulfport Teen Council asked city leaders, in November, to ban half the beach to avoid infringing on people's rights.

"Listen to these kids. They had a great idea," Dorn said. "I invite the Teen Council to come back," Dorn said.

Dennis Cline of Madeira Beach said, "I think the erosion of any of our rights is something everyone should be concerned with."

Cline agrees with Strickland, calling the ordinance a "bad law."

Strickland says according to a Florida Statute, the regulation of smoking is up to the state, not local governments.

Florida Statute 386.209

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.

"I don't think they (City of Gulfport) have a leg to stand on," Cline said.

*****

Within the hour, Gulfport Police Officer Robert McLaughlin stopped by the beach and informed protestors that officers were working on several overnight burglaries and someone would be back to address the situation.

About an hour and a half after the "smoke in" began, Gulfport Police Sgt. and Officer Pete Horning returned to the beach and asked the group to kindly put out their butts and cigars.

Officials informed the group that "out of respect for the officers", who were working on several burglary reports, they would prefer to write one citation. Strickland volunteered while the others complied with officers' requests.

Strickland received the citation, which carries up to a $143 fine. The citation specifies that Strickland is to appear in front of the magistrate at 11 a.m. on May 24 at Gulfport City Hall.

Strickland told Gulfport Patch that he would work to "get this thing out of the magistrate's hands," and appear before a judge.

Mark L Grantham May 03, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Many people feel the need to claim that the civil liberties of the smokers have been violated, I am prompted to ask, what about the civil liberties of the non-smokers? if a person has the need for a cigarette/cigar, there is an area where smoking is allowed, it is not that far of a walk! there is a playground where children are playing, do we have the "right" to smoke in their presence? my answer would be, NO. there are existing bans on fires, alcoholic beverages and dogs, these are for public safety, the safety of others. One thing that seems to be lacking, to me at least, is that this group of smokers are thinking only about themselves, the safety, health, comfort of others is disregarded, or ignored. I was able to quit smoking over 20 years ago, I quit for myself in the beginning, but I also quit for the benefit of others around me. I have to wonder, is this group doing this as a means of "self promotion"? the civil liberties do not appear ro be at risk, at least for this group, the health, safety, comfort and over all well being is being thought of, wow, others are being thought about!
Lynda May 04, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Mark, thanks for putting into words what so many people feel about "civil liberties" of smokers. Protesting a sensible smoking ban at playgrounds and a portion of public beach space is serious over reach (and a big waste of time) by people and groups who oppose any restrictions by "government" on conduct as well as those individuals who truly believe their right to smoke trumps the rights of everyone else to breathe freely in the public spaces our taxes support. I always look forward to reading your comments on Patch and in other forums.
Phil Konigsberg May 10, 2012 at 07:51 AM
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. THIS IS IN REFERENCE TO INDOOR SMOKING RESTRICTIONS AND DOES NOT APPLY TO OUTDOOR SMOKING RESTRICTIONS so Mr. Strickland will not be successful in his endeavor. The pre-emption law that exists in Florida should be rescinded and was pushed through Tallahassee by big tobacco via the legislators that were and still are tied financially to the tobacco industry.
mtober May 13, 2012 at 01:00 AM
http://www.news10.com/story/17365422/no-smoking-policy-inacted-for-new-york-state-parks
William Smith December 01, 2012 at 04:39 AM
Mr. Konigsberg, Thank-you for your legal advice, but the world has enough barracks lawyers. Lets the folks with the real law degrees fight it out.

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