Want to light up a cigar after enjoying at show at the Sarasota Opera House or the Golden Apple Dinner Theater? If you plan on doing so in Five Points Park, you could soon receive a fine.
During the first reading of the ordinance, city commissioners voted unanimously on Monday to ban tobacco use in all city parks and will look at specific city owned buildings as well.
"From the beginning [the city] wanted this to apply city wide," city attorney Robert Fournier said. "The city wanted to look at this as a health measure."
While Fournier said there is a small concern that such a ban could be challenged in the courts, he thought as long as the ordinance is "rationally related to a legitimate government objective," such as health objective and to prevent littering, it should hold up to any challenge.
An ordinance for each city building ban would have to be brought to the board in a separate ordinance.
"Unlike the parks, it’s not automatic," Fournier said. "You have to designate those facilities by a resolution."
While the main concern for supports of the ban is second-hand smoke, Fournier said he included all tobacco products in the ordinance because it is easier for the commission to remove something from an ordinance that to add to it.
Any addition would require two public readings.
The ban comes with by the city's Parks, Recreation and Environmental Protection Agency.
The ban would not include city-owned properties with a private partnership, such as O'Leary's and Marina Jack.
Several people spoke in both favor and opposition to the ban. Sarasota resident Jim Lampl threw up a bag of cigarette butts that he said he picked up that day at Five Points.
"I pick up cigarette butts on almost a daily basis," Lampl said.
Commissioner Shannon Snyder said the ban puts the city in line with other county entities that have banned tobacco use such as Sarasota Memorial Hospital, the Sheriff's Office and all Sarasota County Schools.
"This ordinance does apply to all city parks, not one particular park," Snyder said in response to many commenters who said the ordinance was directed at the homeless at Five Points. "If New York can ban smoking in their public parks, I think Sarasota can catch up."