Smoke-free parks, beaches could be up to Vero Beach City Council

VERO BEACH – Smokers might have to go elsewhere to get their nicotine fix if the Vero Beach City Council pursues smoke-free parks and beaches.

The city’s Recreation Advisory Council held a special meeting Tuesday evening to gather public input into the matter and plans to send that information up to the City Council for more discussion.

Several residents were in attendance, though only a few spoke, including two students who are members of SWAT – Students Working Against Tobacco.

Sisters Lauren and Jenna Defalco presented their case for tobacco-free parks, noting the Surgeon General’s 2010 finding that there is no acceptable level of second-hand smoke.

They also shared statistics that suggest children exposed to smoking – as they are currently in the city’s parks and at the beach – are more likely to become smokers themselves.

Their grandmother, who passed away two years ago, began smoking at 13 – and passed due to medical complications related to smoking.

“We feel tobacco-free parks make sense,” Lauren Defalco said.

Recreation Director Rob Slezak told the commission that, along with health concerns, smoking has created an environmental concern due to littering. He said maintenance crews spend a large amount of their time picking up cigarette butts at the parks – especially wherever there is sand.

Commission member Dr. Daniel Stanley told his fellow members that he is a long-time smoker, and though he takes exception to the possibility of being fined for smoking at parks, he agreed that perhaps signage should be installed to encourage smokers to leave the area when they wish to light up.

“It’s not good for the community,” Dr. Stanley said of smoking.

Commission Chair Richard Yemm said he was “on the fence” with the possibility the city could come up with an ordinance prohibiting smoking at the parks and beaches.

“We’re in the area of how much we want the government to govern,” he said.

He conceded, though, that out of courtesy for others, smokers should be encouraged to take their smoking away from non-smokers.

Whether the Vero Beach City Council will take up the issue at a later meeting remains to be seen. The council, if it so chooses, could decide to pass a resolution of support for making parks and beaches smoke-free or establish an ordinance that could enforce the prohibition of smoking in such areas.

If the council were to approve an ordinance, it could then decide whether law enforcement could issue fines or citations for violating the rule and where the revenue from such fines would be funneled.

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