During Tuesday's Land Development Code subcommittee meeting, the issue of granting restaurants located outside of Sanibel's commercial district permission to apply for an outdoor dining area drew the majority of debate during their two-hour session.
However, it was the request made by one of the island's residents which drew our attention.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Claudia Burns asked the seven-member panel if they could "encourage" restauranteurs who may apply to extend their seating capacity with an outdoor dining area to request that their customers not smoke in any portion of their establishments.
Currently, on Sanibel and throughout the state of Florida, smoking is prohibited in all public buildings and workplaces (with the exception of stand-alone bars which provide no more than 10 percent of their revenue from food sales, designated smoking rooms in hotels/motels, retail shops selling tobacco products, private residences and a handful of other establishments).
Nationwide, 25 states have enacted smoking bans in all enclosed public places, including bars and restaurants. Florida is not one of them.
So, short of petitioning the state to investigate further the potential of extending the ban here in the Sunshine State, Burns requested that the LDC encourage island restauranteurs to extend that ban themselves.
According to City Attorney Ken Cuyler, the City of Sanibel is prohibited from regulating smoking laws because they are governed at the state level. However, because the owners of restaurants may establish their own rules on smoking (with the exception of allowing the practice inside of their buildings), they are able to extend the ban within the parameters of their property.
While we wouldn't be in favor of the LDC setting forth a condition that all applicants must agree to banning smoking in outdoor dining areas, we would support each applicant being made aware that smoking in eateries - indoors or outdoors - would surely be a turn-off to most members of the public.
Who would want to be enjoying a casual afternoon lunch with friends, only to have a cloud of billowing smoke encircle you as you tried to eat your meal? Not us.
When the Planning Commission - and, in the coming weeks, the City Council - considers this new legislation, we would encourage the public to make their feelings known on this issue, and speak out in favor of restaurants banning smoking in all areas, inside and out.
- Reporter editorial