JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Smoking and vaping in Jacksonville parks would be banned under new legislation introduced before the city council Tuesday evening.
We’ve all likely experienced it.
Sitting at a park or playground and catching a whiff of cigarette smoke.
For non-smokers, it can not only be a mood killer but also a health risk.
Until recently, the local government’s hands were tied when it came to the issue of smoking in public places.
However, the Florida Legislature took off the handcuffs with a bill passed last year and it’s already resulted in Atlantic, Neptune, and Jax Beach passing prohibitions on smoking in their parks.
Now, the rest of Duval County could follow.
“I just assumed you couldn’t go to a T-Ball game and light up, but you can underneath our current law,” said Councilmember Kevin Carrico (R-District 4).
Carrico is leading the charge to end smoking and vaping in Jacksonville’s public parks.
“I have a four-year-old daughter. We frequent Jacksonville parks, and I don’t like being at the park when people are smoking. Especially after I’ve encountered people smoking marijuana in the parks underneath the pavilions just feet away from the playgrounds and it makes it uncomfortable,” said Carrico. “So, we have a lot of youth sports and family programming, family-centric things going on in our parks and I just think smoking isn’t something that should go on in those areas.”
If passed, Carrico’s newly filed bill would impose a $25 fine on violators.
Nicole Hamm, Executive Director of Blue Zone Project Jacksonville, argued the goal isn’t intended to criminalize smokers, but rather bolster public health.
“It’s proven that fresh air is good for your lungs, but unfortunately when that fresh air is polluted by secondhand smoke and all of these toxic chemicals in the air, that can cause quite a problem, not just for our adults, but also those that may be pregnant, our young people,” said Hamm.
But not everyone is so fond of the idea.
“We’re outside. If someone sees someone else smoking, go around them,” said Duval resident Geanene White.
“I think that’s government overreach. Somethings just need to be off limits to a certain degree,” said another Duval resident Carnell Oliver.
The prohibition on smoking would join a long list of rules already on the books, which you can find posted at James Weldon Johnson Park.
However, Action News Jax observed a number of those rules being violated with no consequences Tuesday afternoon, including littering and cycling in the park.
It raises questions about how effectively the ban on smoking could or would be enforced.
Carrico told us he imagines the ordnance acting as more of a deterrent, and figures fines would likely be reserved for repeat and serious offenders.
“I don’t foresee a task force initiative going on or people just going to jail for smoking. It’s really a deterrent and a message to the community that we care about health, and we care about our young people,” said Carrico.
Carrico said he expects bipartisan support for the initiative.
We could see it pass the full council as soon as six weeks from now.
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