Judge strikes down smoking ban at parks and beaches

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SARASOTA, Fla. - Sarasota County's prohibition on smoking is over, at least for the time being.

On Tuesday, County Commissioners were made aware by County Attorney Steve DeMarsh that the county could no longer enforce the ban at public owned parks and beaches, including Siesta Beach. The ban has been in place for several years.

"We were very disappointed," said Commissioner Christine Robinson. "Health and environmental concerns continue to remain a concern. Healthwise, we do not want people smoking around children. Many smokers will agree it does not belong in playgrounds and ballfields."

The news comes in response to a recent court case in the city of Sarasota. A judge ruled local governments are not permitted to ban smoking anywhere outdoors. In that case, attorney Andrea Mogensen defended a woman who was arrested for smoking in a city park.

"We recognize smoking is unpopular to a significant section of the community, but there has to be room for everyone," Mogensen said.

Commissioners will be speaking with the local legislative delegation, pushing for a bill that would allow local leaders to prohibit smoking on government owned properties.