12/07/2011 - Isaac Babcock | Winter Park Maitland Observer
Cigarette smoking in public parks could be banned if the Winter Park City Commission gets the right to do so, but that means overturning a Florida law. At its Nov. 28 meeting the Commission passed a resolution asking the state to do just that.
The resolution specifically asked the state to allow cities to regulate tobacco use however they see fit. That could include banning it outright, banning it in certain places, or not regulating it at all, Mayor Ken Bradley said.
Winter Park Health Foundation program director Lisa Portelli said that a change to curb smoking would help make the city safer for children.
“Why are we doing this? Kids,” she said. “No amount of secondhand smoke has been deemed safe and we need to promote healthier environments.”
Winter Park Chamber of Commerce president Patrick Chapin, who is also a member of the WPHF, said he wished the issue of public smoking would command more residents’ attention.
“It’s a little too bad that we have a roomful of people [concerned about a vote on an] office building, and when we’re talking about something that’s life and death — secondhand smoke — no one’s here,” Chapin said. “We’re dealing with something that’s very serious.”
The resolution also sought to promote awareness of the dangers of secondhand smoke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 56,4000 nonsmoking Americans die annually of heart disease and lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke. The resolution urged residents not to smoke where children commonly play.
Winter Park wouldn’t be the first to get in on the act if the city succeeds in persuading the state and then passes its own regulations. Local institutions such as Rollins College and the University of Central Florida are already jumping the gun on tobacco regulation, instituting their own smoking bans that will take effect in the fall of 2012.
The city has been pushing for such legislation since Jan. 10, when the Commission first requested the resolution. On Feb. 14 the Commission passed its first resolution calling for the change. Since then Orlando and Orange County have done the same. On Dec. 12, the Maitland City Council will discuss a similar resolution.
Commissioners were all in support of the city having the power to determine its own laws, but some stopped short of endorsing legislation that would restrict tobacco use in the city.
“Individual rights I fully support, and I understand that people want to smoke and use tobacco in a number of different ways,” Commissioner Steven Leary said. “But I think that individual rights also transfer and that individuals have the right to not have their freedom impinged upon by people smoking next to them.
“It’s difficult for me, because I do believe that people have the right to make their own choices, but when it starts impacting others I believe there’s a difference there. When people’s actions impact somebody else I think it supercedes an individual’s right to have a cigarette.”
Mayor Ken Bradley said that the control of tobacco use in the city, when juxtaposed against existing alcohol ordinances, is an interesting issue, but said the city should have that power regardless.
“I think it speaks for us to ask the state to say ‘hey, let us decide,’” Bradley said. “If people want to smoke in their parks, that’s their decision. If we decide we don’t want that, let us do that.”