Sep 14, 2022 - News

Miami Beach bans cigarettes at beaches and parks

A volunteer holds polluted cigarette butts during a beach cleanup in Miami Beach.
A volunteer holds cigarette butts at an environmental cleanup on Miami Beach. Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The most popular beaches in Miami will be cigarette-free zones starting in January after Miami Beach commissioners voted Wednesday to ban most smoking at its public beaches and parks.

What's happening: The ordinance, which seeks to reduce pollution from discarded cigarette butts, applies to cigarettes, pipe tobacco and other lighted tobacco products, but not unfiltered cigars, which are exempt under state law.

  • Beachgoers could face fines starting at $100 for the first violation and increasing to $300 for a third violation within 12 months.
  • The ordinance says someone can also be arrested for violating the smoking ban, which raised concerns from at least one commissioner.

What they're saying: Commissioner Alex Fernandez, who sponsored the ordinance, said the city will do extensive public outreach before enforcing the law beginning Jan. 1.

  • "We have undoubtedly what are the most beautiful, most iconic beaches in the world," Fernandez said. "But unfortunately, at times our beaches get littered with the wrong types of butts — cigarette butts. And we want to eliminate them from our beaches."

The other side: Ricky Arriola, the only commissioner to vote against the measure, said he doubts the new law will be consistently enforced. He noted that people frequently bring alcohol to the beach despite its technically being illegal in the city.

  • If the ordinance is enforced, he said, it could lead to negative interactions between police and unsuspecting tourists or the homeless community.
  • "I don't believe in penalizing something that is lawful," he said at the meeting.
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