Ocean City To Discuss Smoke-Free Beach; Referendum To Gauge Voters’ Stance Suggested

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OCEAN CITY – Whether to ban smoking on the beach as well as the Boardwalk will be formally discussed by Ocean City lawmakers next month.

According to Councilman Brent Ashley during strategic planning sessions last week, the Mayor and City Council discussed having Ocean City follow some of its competitor resorts and officially institute a smoke-free beach.

“With the council members that were there, I think the support is there to move forward with some type of plan to be proactive in this [smoke-free beach],” Ashley said at the conclusion of Monday evening’s Mayor and City Council legislative meeting. “All of our neighbors have done this. The State of New Jersey is looking at making all of their beaches and parks smoke-free.”

Ashley recognized there are newspaper articles dating back to 1994 when local businessman Joe Kroart first introduced the opportunity for Ocean City to become the nation’s first smoke-free beach.

“Since then, hundreds of other beaches have done it ahead of us, so I would hope the council would take a pro-active approach this time,” Ashley said.

City Manager David Recor confirmed the matter is scheduled for a meeting in April when the Mayor and City Council will discuss “best practices for both the Boardwalk and the beach”, including a smoke-free beach.

Councilwoman Margaret Pillas asked for the council to consider posing the question of whether the taxpayers want smoke-free beaches by referendum in November’s election. Recor responded a referendum will also be part of the upcoming discussion.

A couple of weeks ago, the City of Rehoboth Beach passed a smoking ban in certain public places, such as the beach, Boardwalk and bandstand that will take effect on May 15.

Rehoboth Beach follows in the footsteps of Ocean City’s more immediate neighbors to the north in Delaware of Fenwick Island, Bethany Beach and Dewey Beach, who all have smoking bans in effect.

Last week The Baltimore Sun editorialized, “The question is no longer whether tourist attractions are in danger of losing business if they ban smoking but whether they are in danger of losing attendance if they don’t.”

More specifically, The Baltimore Sun opinion piece focused on Ocean City stating, “Yet Ocean City remains badly behind the times. The town council has repeatedly considered similar far-reaching outdoor smoking bans in recent years but failed to adopt them. Ocean City does ban smoking in parks but asks visitors only to be courteous about smoking on the beach … That’s unfortunate because it’s contributed to an impression that Ocean City is not the family-friendly resort it claims to be but one that caters to smokers.”

A smoke-free beach in Ocean City was last formally discussed among city officials in July of 2012 when the Mayor and City Council was in consensus to implement smoke-free areas on the beach by the following summer but the topic never returned for further public discussion.

A public hearing was held in December of 2010 regarding a smoking ban on Ocean City’s beaches, Boardwalk and at public parks.

A handful of speakers spoke for and against the question, but the council at that time decided to place cigarette butt cans and signage along the beach and the Boardwalk, providing smokers with smoking stations.

A law was not passed mandating smoking at designated smoking stations but served as a request for smokers to use the stations. However, the council did vote to ban smoking in Ocean City’s public parks.

“Several weeks ago, I brought up enforcing the litter law with people flicking their cigarette butts out of the car window,” Ashley added on Monday evening. “Apparently, I hit a nerve with a lot of people in town and have had many comments on that. I understand the newly formed Ocean City Surf Club is going to be backing that initiative to encourage the police department to start issuing warnings and fines to people who are flicking butts out the car windows.”

In January, Ashley asked the Police Commission to discuss having the penalty for flicking cigarettes out of car windows become heftier in Ocean City after coming across news out of Illinois.

A new law in Illinois that went into effect on Jan. 1 requires a first-time offender who flicks a cigarette out of a window receive a class B misdemeanor with fines up to $1,500. If caught three times, an offender would face a class 4 felony, with a $2,500 fine and up to three years in prison.

During a Police Commission report in February, Ocean City Police Chief Ross Buzzuro stated the department is looking into two areas of Ocean City’s code where flicking cigarettes can be incorporated, littering and discarding objects from a motor vehicle.

“Whether it is someone walking down the street disposing of trash, or from a car, it is something we can certainly take a look at and start to enforce,” Buzzuro said at that time. “We want to reinforce the cleanliness and respect of our town. As we approach the beginning of the season, it is something that we can certainly address.”

18 comments on “Ocean City To Discuss Smoke-Free Beach; Referendum To Gauge Voters’ Stance Suggested

  1. I’m not a smoker but think outlawing smoking in open air spaces goes too far. I do not like when people throw their butts out the window and think it should follow the same laws for littering!

    • I am a smoker and I agree with you on the littering aspect. I already emailed the EPA about cars that do not offer the option of an ashtray in 2001 and newer models. This has contributed to the cigarette butts being thrown out of a vehicle.

      • My boyfriend and I love to go to the beach, catch some rays, swim and yes smoke on the beach while we do our word search puzzles. We always clean up our butts by putting them in our empty soda containers and disposing of those in a trash can. My peeve is that the trash cans are always overflowing with MCD’s, Thrashers, you know, fast food litter which always ends up blowing around the beach and into the ocean. The best thing about OC is that they do clean the beaches every evening in the summer(I’m pretty sure the machine gets the majority of the butts). I love that clean, wet sand under my feet.

  2. As a vacationer each summer, I think it would be great to ban smoking on the beach. With grandchildren, they do not need to smell smoke or even breath it in. Its an awful smell and having someone on the beach smoke right beside you is horrendous. then for them to use the sand as an ashtray…gross!!! I hope you all vote to ban smoking on the beach. The boardwalk is a bit different and I would not care about people smoking there but on the actual beach,,ban it and make lots of people who do not smoke happier. Besides, what would people rather smell, horrible smoke or the nice smells of the ocean???

    • MOVE TO ANOTHER LOCATION ON THE BEACH!! I MOVE TO ANOTHER AREA ON THE BEACH IF I AM ANNOYED BY CHILDREN CRYING OR THROWING SAND OR I AM HEARING PROFANITY! also SOME PEOPLE AND KIDS IN DIRTY SOGGY WET DIAPERS SMELL HORRIBLE!!!

  3. Sounds like this smoking is gone to far. 1st hotels 2nd restaurants. Now the boardwalk & beach. The next thing will be like NJ no Alcohol on the boardwalk. When will it stop? what is happening to peoples rights. I hope if the no smoking on the boardwalk / beach passes that tourist go to a beach that will let them Smoke. I don’t see what it is hurting. Open Air….

  4. Thank you! I grew up in ocean city but this is what was starting to make me leave ocean city. there are the children around and the smell when laying on the beach. It has been done next door in Delaware and those beaches keep growing.

  5. Gauge voters? How about gauging visitors? Too often we forget who the customer is until it’s too late and they have disappeared.

  6. I remember not so long ago when southern MD was tobacco central! Now the state taxes tobacco at high rates (which is ok) and eventually with bans on smoking, tobacco will go away (again which is ok).

    If a state revenue stream (ciggy butts) loses steam (no longer generates revenue, because of the 21st century banning) – then the state must look elsewhere to keep the revenue coming in. Only one way to keep revenue coming in – raise the cost of something else or TAXES!

    Cigs, like we boomers, will be gone within 25 yrs anyway – hope the next gens are watchful for MD’s cash cow ~ Ocean City’s future!

    ~BUSHMAN!~

  7. I AM A SMOKER.I ALWAYS HAVE A PORTABLE ASHTRAY WITH ME AND ALWAYS USE IT.OC OFFICIALS SHOULD LOOK INTO THESE PORTABLE ASHTRAYS! IT COULD BE A MONEY MAKER FOR THE TOWN! BUY THESE PORTABLE ASHTRAYS(LID IS ATTACHED),HOT STAMP OCMD FUN IN THE SUN(example),SELL AT STORES AND ON THE BOARDWALK AND HAVE SOMEONE SELLING THEM AT DUNE CROSSINGS TO BEACH GOERS. SET UP LIKE THE PEOPLE WHO RENT BEACH CHAIRS AND UMBRELLAS DO. I WOULD VOLUNTEER SOME OF MY TIME SELLING THESE ASHTRAYS TO BEACH GOERS!

  8. WE NEED TO KEEP EVERYONE HAPPY NOT JUST NON SMOKERS!I HAVE SEEN MANY MANY MANY FAMILIES HAVING FUN AND THEY SMOKE!

  9. I think this is bull. Your outside. The smoke goes away. I don’t smoke!!! I think ppl should be able to smoke on the boardwalk and beach as long as the don’t throw the buds on the ground. If it gets ban me and my family won’t be going there any more!!

  10. Let all the non smokers absorb the costs, when smokers find a new vacation area. How about keeping your kids next to you, instead of running rampant, tossing sand,while you converse with your friends? Last thing I want on vacation is a bunch of kinds crying, throwing tantrums, and running from parents saying, you better come here. How about having a place on the beach for families with kids. I have been to OCMD For over 40 yrs., and do not have enough fingers and toes, to count how many kids I have grabbed out of a wave, while mom, dad, and company are under the umbrella, chit chatting. Pick your battles. Smoke in the open air, or being exposed to butt cracks and profanity, drinking, and way to much snuggling on the sand.

  11. Check out the article on this site: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/11/new-york-state-park-smoking-ban/2967991/.
    A group in NY called CLASH won against the state of NY to smoke in open air parks. Maybe they should add a chapter in Ocean City, MD!?!

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