News and Events

County Approves Ban on Smoking, Vaping in County-Owned Parks
By Jessica Carlson
March 1, 2023

SEBRING – The Highlands County Commission voted 5-0 to ban smoking and vaping in county recreation areas, including parks. This approval also includes all district parks that fall within the definition of Ordinance No. 22-23-15. 

This BOCC decision follows in the succession of signed law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on June 17, effective July 1, that allows cities and counties to impose such restrictions. At the February 21st meeting, Scott Kirouac, Highlands Tobacco Free Partnership (TFP) Member and Highlands County Commissioner, moved to request adoption of the ordinance amending county park definition. The amendment included updated vaping language defined by Florida Statutes, Chapter 386. The motion was seconded by Commissioner, Arlene Tuck and approved unanimously. Note: this ordinance does not apply to unfiltered cigars and pipe tobacco use.

The new playground at the Multi-Sports Complex in Sebring opened at the beginning of May. Fully equipped with a shade to protect children from the sun and an ordinance to protect against 2nd hand smoke.

The penalty of any person convicted of violation smoking or using cigarettes or vaping or using vaping products shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $500.00 or by imprisonment in the county jail for a period not to exceed 60 days, or both such fine and imprisonment. “We are proud of this progress but we, as a community, still have a lot of work to do within our local schools. Vaping is a major concern among our youth and we have to do better. ” stated Kirouac at the March 1, 2023 TFP Meeting. 

“We are not trying to hurt our citizens, the opposite really. We want to provide a safe space for our kids, to be kids. If you are going to smoke - go ahead, but you just can’t do it here.” he said.