Boardwalk Smoking Ban Deserves Consideration

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The
possibility of banning smoking on the beach in Ocean City has grabbed headlines
around region. The idea is quite divisive, and there’s passion on both sides of
the argument.

On one
hand, it can be said smokers are now in the minority in this country, and that
non-smokers should not have to deal with second-hand smoke while enjoying the
beach, a public place that falls into the same category as many others, like
hotels and restaurants, where smoking has been prohibited. It can be argued
that inconsiderate smokers, in general, are responsible for the most popular
litter item found on the beach. Many carelessly put their cigarette butts out
in the sand, only to be found later by children and adults enjoying the beach,
days, weeks or years later.

On the
other hand, it can be said government should not be expanding its reach any
further and that smokers have already been alienated enough over the years.
Smokers, like everyone else, should be able to relax on the beach and enjoy
their habit, so long as they are responsible and courteous.

The
problem here is many smokers are responsible and understand people do not want
to inhale their smoke. They realize smoking is not a pleasant habit and is
largely frowned upon by most. It’s not these folks that cause the problems or
leave dozens of cigarette butts behind on the beach. It’s the irresponsible lot
– the folks who light up cigars next to a group of families nary a concern for
the wind, for example – that causes this decision to even be weighed in the
first place.

It was
said last week that Ocean City should pose a poll question of sorts on its
ballot to gauge voter sentiment on the matter. We think these sorts of straw
poll questions are dangerous territory, particularly when you pose them in the
formal fashion of a ballot.

Mayor
and Council members are elected to represent the citizenry. Posing a question
on a ballot that’s not binding and allowing for the voters to express their
thoughts can be tricky. What happens if registered voters overwhelmingly
suggest smoking be banned on the beach and the council majority does not agree
out of fear the decision may turn vacationers away? An inevitable backlash will
surface, leading many to wonder why council members even asked voter desires in
the first place.

We feel
a smoking ban on the beach is worthy of consideration, but that more
specifically it should be prohibited on the Boardwalk. At least in Ocean City,
this is where more of the concerns lie, particularly in the littering and
unsightly appearance of the famous promenade. Ocean City prides itself on its
cleanliness, but staff cannot stay on top of the cigarette butt issue
throughout the day and night.

Other
problems come about due to the close proximity many people find themselves in
on the Boardwalk. Second-hand smokes concerns are well documented, but there
are also numerous examples of little kids being burned and clothes being
damaged by a lit cigarette and other concerns.

We
think a Boardwalk ban on smoking would be wise and leave the beach decision for
another day. However, in a time when Ocean City is reaching out far and wide to
bring new travelers to the resort, it’s not going to happen anytime soon.
There’s too much at stake for the town and its businesses to risk another round
of bad publicity like it had this spring with the recycling move. Nonetheless,
that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not the proper decision.

 

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