Growing up, one of the best memories I’ve had living in Florida was able to enjoy the beautiful nature that surrounds us. Parks and beaches are some of Florida’s gems and are popular spots to relax, exercise, and spend time with friends and family. What many people don’t realize is that by utilizing these public areas they could be putting their health in danger. Currently, a wide variety of parks and beaches in the state allow visitors to smoke. Smoking and tobacco use in these areas can have negative impacts on the health of both smokers and non-smokers, as well as on the environment.
Smoking and secondhand smoke exposure are key contributors to respiratory disease, heart conditions, and lung cancer. In addition, it significantly harms vulnerable populations such as children, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions. By creating tobacco-free environments, we can encourage people to engage in healthy behaviors and discourage tobacco use.
By having smoking and tobacco products in public, we set a bad example and shift the norm to make cigarettes and vapes more acceptable. As someone who personally saw vape cartridges being left on the grounds of local parks when I was in high school, it gave the false sense of perception that it was an activity that was frequently done by those who were deemed “cool” and “popular.” By making parks and beaches tobacco-free, we can send a clear message that smoking is not desirable or acceptable behavior.
Not only does smoking set a bad example, but it also harms our environment. Did you know that the number one form of litter on beaches is cigarette butts? As the greatest source of ocean trash, cigarette butts discarded on the beach weigh over 2.1 billion pounds. It is no secret that smoking and tobacco use are detrimental to health and well-being. By creating a smoke-free environment in public parks and beaches, individuals can feel more confident in their ability to remain smoke-free, while also promoting healthier habits to others. This is why many cities and communities have started implementing tobacco-free policies in parks and beaches. Thanks to the Florida Clean Air Act, which was passed in 2023, individual cities and municipalities now have the right to make their property smoke-free. It’s important for communities to work together to help create and enforce policies, as well as, educate the public about the benefits of tobacco-free environments. Every person has a role that they can play when it comes to creating a healthier, cleaner, and more enjoyable public space for all. Join us in taking pride in Florida’s parks and beaches. For more information on how you can help, email Tobacco-Free Jacksonville- firstname.lastname@example.org.