City commissioners balk at ban on smoking in city parks

Given the alarming rate at which smoking is killing Americans, coupled with the proven danger that second-hand smoke poses to non-smokers, it is distressing that Margate town commissioners could not find ways to enact a law prohibiting the practice in city parks.

“I fear that if we ban smoking at all, some parents won’t even take their children to the park,” Commissioner Joanne Simone said. “They need that smoke, so they’re going to deny their kids the chance to go to the park. I try to help children and parents at the same time so I’m ok with a designated area.


Incredible about the conversation between the commissioners at their September town meeting, Margate ratepayers recently spent millions to approve a 2018 parks bond to improve city parks and play areas in line with a life healthy.

Vice Mayor Anthony Caggiano said banning smoking in parks would encourage fights between adults.

“If you tell people you can’t smoke in the park and you don’t have the police there to give them tickets, people are going to smoke in the park and people are going to get mad about it” , said the father of a teenage daughter. “I don’t think we should ban smoking in parks, but should have designated smoking areas.”

The idea swept the stage like the plague. In addition to Simone and Caggiano, Mayor Antonio Arserio, who has a toddler, was in favor of designated smoking areas, and Commissioner Ruzzano, a renowned baseball dad whose children grew up in Margate parks, was indifferent.

“If you want to leave with a [smoking] section, I don’t mind. It’s going to be dirty and smelly because that’s smoking,” Ruzzano said. “I want to keep him away from the kids on the pitch. I see people coming up to the canoe. Obviously, second-hand smoke is not good for you.

Instead of a smoking area, Arserio suggested a smoking distance of about 100 feet from play areas. Using Firefighters Park as an example, he said parents could smoke on the fitness trail while watching their kids on the playground or basketball court.

“For me, it’s about protecting the vulnerable,” the mayor said.

A voice of reason in a country where more than 90% of lung cancer deaths are caused by cigarettes, Commissioner Arlene Schwartz spoke out in favor of banning the habit. She wanted Margate to pass an ordinance mirroring the ban in Pembroke Pines, one of several towns in Broward that ban smoking in city parks.

“If you can’t not smoke for two hours in a park, maybe that’s not the place to be,” she said in response to Simone’s comments. “With all due respect, if a parent refuses their child to go to a park because they can’t smoke, I would be concerned about the home environment where the parent smokes all over that child. If that’s the reason for allowing for a designated smoking area is a bad one.

Yet not a single commissioner has proposed passing a law banning smoking in Margate’s parks.

The September discussion came in the wake of Senate Bill HB105 which passed over the summer. The new law grants Florida cities the power to ban smoking in city parks, except for unfiltered cigars. The law extends city autonomy on this, but Margate, a city that is pushing for self-governing powers, disagreed.

Faced with city commissioners who did not understand the impending dangers of smoking, City Manager Cale Curtis suggested experimenting with a policy – ​​not a law – that bans smoking in city parks.

“I don’t think we’re going to have people fighting or not taking their kids to a park because they can’t smoke in a certain area,” he said, adding that sections Separate smoking areas would separate parents and children…a matter of safety. “I wouldn’t recommend that.”

The difference between a policy and a law is that a policy is not subject to the application of the law. This means that a police officer cannot write a citation that would result in a fine or a court appearance for smoking in a city park.

“I think the police have better things to do with their time,” Caggiano said.

In a turn of events, commissioners who favored a smoking zone in parks or a smoking distance from playgrounds agreed to a policy of completely banning smoking in parks. The policy did not require the commission’s approval, only that of the city manager, thus relieving political pressure for some in an election year.

The ban will apply to all areas of the park, including the parking lot, and will come into effect on an undisclosed date.

If the policy fails, commissioners will consider making it law, Arserio said

“If it’s a rule in our parks that no smoking is allowed there, I think most people would follow it,” Curtis said.

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