By Jane Smith and Mary Hladky

After years of frustration with a state law that prevented cities and counties from regulating outdoor smoking, Delray Beach and Boca Raton are finally in position to clear the air at their beaches and parks.
Both cities are taking advantage of a new state law that allows local governments to impose cigarette smoking bans in outdoor areas.
The proposed smoking bans at beaches and parks, passed on first reading in Delray Beach on July 19 and introduced in Boca Raton on July 26, could take effect in August if approved as expected. The ordinances also would cover vaping (using electronic devices).
But cities still won’t be able to stop anyone from lighting up a stogie outdoors, because the new state law exempts the smoking of unfiltered cigars from local regulation.
“To me, it makes no sense,” Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer said. “Cigar smoke travels further and typically is more potent.”
State Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, told Delray Beach commissioners during her legislative update at their June 7 meeting that the cigar exemption was kept in place because one state senator wanted it.
Despite the cigar exemption, the new law is welcome news.
Local governments have railed against state laws that take control out of their hands, as had been the case with outdoor smoking and continues with firearm regulations. While cities and counties may prefer local control, the state on some issues sees the need for uniform laws and preempts local governments from making their own rules.
Berman called the new state law “a reverse preemption,” giving back control to local officials on the smoking issue.
Boca Raton’s planned ordinance is one victory for Singer in his years-long attempts to end state preemptions that prevent cities from enacting their own laws on local matters.
“This is one rare instance where the state has not preempted us and returned home rule back to cities on a specifically local issue,” Singer said.
Boca Raton did what it could in the past to discourage smoking at public beaches and parks. While it could not ban smoking, it posted signs urging visitors not to smoke.
The state took away the ability of local governments to regulate outdoor smoking in 2003. At one point, Sarasota County ignored the state law and imposed a beach smoking ban, but the ban was later thrown out in court.
In 2013, then-State Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton, filed legislation to allow local governments to ban smoking at parks and beaches, but it didn’t pass.
Local governments had to wait until July 1 when the state changed the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act to the Florida Clean Air Act, allowing local control of smoking at public beaches and parks.
Boca Raton will fine violators $100. Delray Beach has not set its fine schedule.

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