• American Heart Association may not return to Orlando due to smoking policy

    Updated:

    ORLANDO, Fla. - The American Heart Association wrapped up a huge convention this week at the Orange County Convention Center, bringing big bucks to the tourist area.

    Channel 9 anchor Jamie Holmes found out the group may not return because of Orlando's smoking policies.

    About 20,000 surgeons and doctors from across the country poured into Orlando, pumping millions into the local economy.

    "Beginning July 1, 2017, they will not meet in locations that don't have a smoke-free workplace," said Fred Shea of Visit Orlando.

    The American Heart Association is pulling the plug on holding conventions in any city that doesn't have strict rules on smoking at bars, restaurants and hotels.

    That puts Orlando and Orange County in a tight spot.

    The state of Florida holds all the cards when it comes to setting smoking rules, and no city or county can write a law tougher than the one already on the books.

    That prevents communities from creating smoke-free outdoor spaces, and in many bars, smoking is still allowed.

    On International Drive, there are many pubs that allow smoking, which is special for British tourists, who can't smoke inside pubs in the UK.

    The I-Drive Visioning Committee, which is shaping the future of the tourist corridor, has already discussed smoking, knowing the American Heart Association has threatened to pull out.

    But many hotel owners, like Harris Rosen, have said that the I-Drive corridor should be left alone.

    "They may not consider us because we allow smoking in bars. So, when they're here, we don't allow smoking in bars. They won't consider us if that's the policy in the county," said Shea.

    Meanwhile, the American Heart Association has praised competing cities like New Orleans for their smoking bans.

    It is estimated the convention brings in visitors spending 51,000 hotel nights and some $67 million to the area.

    Next Up: