News Archive / Martin County Tobacco Litter

Martin County Board of County Commissioners Vote to Implement New Signage to Reduce Tobacco Litter

By Barry Hummel, Jr., MD, Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation


On July 26, 2011, the Martin County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to implement a program to increase signage promoting existing local ordinances and a Florida Statutes designed to reduce litter in local parks and beaches. The new signs will focus attention on tobacco-related litter, which is a particular problem in Martin County.

The vote by the Board of County Commissioners was the culmination of a two-year effort by community partners to reduce the glut of litter in the local community.

The problem was initially identified by Keep Martin Beautiful, a local environmental group. Keep Martin Beautiful participates annually in the International Coastal Cleanup and statistics from that effort shows that over 42% of litter in Martin County is tobacco-related trash. This is double the national average of 21%.

Keep Martin Beautiful brought this issue to the Tobacco Free Partnership to see if the group could help to identify solutions to this problem. The Partnership formed a task force that included Keep Martin Beautiful, Communities Putting Prevention to Work, Students Working Against Tobacco, Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation, and Martin County Parks and Recreation to look at the problem of tobacco litter.

Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) clubs conducted several of their own beach and park clean-ups, including two major efforts during the 2010 and 2011 Single Fin Showdown Surf Contests. SWAT youth collected 20 pounds of tobacco trash in 2011, including 14 pounds at Stuart Beach.

During the surf contests, the SWAT members also surveyed local residents on their opinions regarding smoke-free barks and beaches. Quit Doc Research and Education Foundation then analyzed the data provided by the SWAT youth. Among the 800 adults surveyed, 86% were in favor of designated smoking areas at parks and beaches, and 88% were in favor of completely smoke-free parks and beaches.

To make sure that the survey accurately reflected community standards, participants were also asked to identify whether or not they used tobacco. 18% of the participants identified themselves as smokers, which is line with the results of the recent Florida Adult Tobacco Survey in which 16.9% of Martin County residents reported smoking. Surprisingly, 87% of the smokers surveyed supported the idea of designated smoking areas, and 88% supported completely smoke-free parks and beaches.

The survey demonstrated broad-based community support for a long-term solution addressing tobacco use in Martin County Parks and Beaches.

Meanwhile, members of the Tobacco Free Partnership researched the current policies, ordinances, and statutes In effect in Martin County.

This research identified a county policy restricting smoking within 50 feet of any county facility; many facilities (such as the County Administrative Building) have signs promoting this policy, but the majority of county facilities do not have adequate signage.

In addition, there is a Martin County Ordinance that specifically reinforces Florida Litter Law (Florida Statute 403.413), which cites tobacco litter as an enforceable offense anywhere in the state of Florida. Violating this state law comes with a $100.00 fine per offense, and violators may be required to perform community service by cleaning up litter.

At the same time, Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW), a program of the Florida Department of Health, was tasked with promoting smoke-free parks and beaches throughout the state. As part of this project, CPPW has funds set aside to provide signs promoting smoke-free parks and beaches. CPPW agreed to provide the necessary signs to promote the current rules in Martin County, and provided samples of signs being used in other communities.

On July 21, 2011, the community partners presented their findings to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. After hearing the presentation, the Board voted to support the concept of signage promoting the existing laws and policies as a way to reduce the impact of tobacco related litter in Martin County parks and beaches. Kevin Abbate, Director of Parks and Recreation, highlighted the importance of this issue as Martin County works towards being identified as a Top Ten Beach Destination.

At the request of Commissioner Ed Ciampi, the task force members presented their findings to the Board of County Commissioners on July 26, 2011.

Valerie Graham, the facilitator of the Tobacco Free Partnership of Martin County, shared the data on the volume and impact of tobacco litter in Martin County.

Giovanni Sancho, Kashia Darville, and Aaliyah Darville, SWAT youth from the Boys and Girls Club of Martin County, shared the data from their survey of local residents supporting even stronger smoking restrictions in local parks and beaches.

Darlene Burton, Treasure Coast representative from CPPW presented samples of potential signs, and committed to covering the cost of reproducing sings designed and approved by the Department of Parks and Recreation and Board of County Commissioners.

Kevin Abbate, Director of Parks and Recreation discussed the support of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board for the proposal, and how this project is a great first step towards the designation of a Top Ten Beach Destination.

At the end of the presentation, the Martin County Board of County Commissioners held an immediate vote on the proposal, agreeing unanimously to support the placement of new signs to make the community aware of existing rules with regards to tobacco use in Martin County.


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