While there seemed to be some unnecessary over-deliberation at times, the Town of Ocean City overall handled the process of transitioning to an official restricted smoking beach resort well.
Ocean City has always encouraged smoking restraint on the beach by spreading out cheap smoking receptacles along the beach and making some mentions on signage, but it has never been an official law until this coming season. Smokers will now have to leave the confines of their beach chair and shade of the umbrella for a smoke at a designated site about 50 feet from the Boardwalk or street-end, depending on your location in Ocean City.
Throughout the over year-long process, there were points when the city was overthinking the specifics and making the matter more difficult than it appeared to be. That was the case when Boardwalk smoking sites were discussed at length, and the council seemed to be getting mired in which locations would cause the least amount of heartburn for businesses and pedestrians. However, overthinking something is better than the alternative — hastily making a decision without careful deliberation that would umbrage many.
In that case, judgment mistakes would have been made and revisions necessary as the summer progresses. With a polarizing social issue like smoking, it’s critical to conduct due diligence and research, and the city seemed to do that and did it well.
In the city’s case, there were plenty of precedents to follow, as neighboring resorts to the north have been more progressive on the issue and seemingly handled it well without and sort of public backlash. Molding Ocean City’s ordinance after those Delaware beach towns worked for the most part, but that doesn’t mean there will not be some backlash from visitors unaware of the change.
Therein lies the rub — the city is affecting a social policy that will probably never be accepted and followed by all nor enforced intensely, but the great majority supports it. Smoking restrictions are favored by more than not and the city was right to restrict smoking and give them fairly convenient options to light up.
It’s important to again note smoking is not banned on the beach. There are just certain places smokers must utilize now. It’s also important to understand there will be little to no enforcement of this ordinance, but in most cases smokers are a considerate bunch, and we don’t see many intentionally violating the new law.
There is a Boardwalk smoking ban, however, but users will simply have to walk 50 feet on the beach or wooden walkway to smoke. The big change is they can’t walk along the Boardwalk and smoke any longer.
Overall, the restricted smoking policy in place in Ocean City is a welcomed change, and we think there will be little issues associated with it once the summer kicks in.