It was surprising to learn there were three citations issued to people for violating the town’s smoking restrictions last summer. We assumed it would be zero because it was essentially just a paper law in its first year.
Ocean City made that approach known before the new law was enacted that banned smoking on the Boardwalk and created designated smoking areas on the beach earlier this year.
With the new policy came the hope responsible adults would understand smoking is okay on the beach but it’s best for everyone if it’s done at the designated smoking receptacles to respect the wishes of the non-smokers, who are the majority, and cut down on litter. What the restricted policy did not come with was an enforcement plan or even more a stated will to carry out adherence.
That much was pretty much confirmed by Council member Mary Knight this week when she said, “We wanted the first year to be an educational year for our visitors.” She added, “I think we will be more strict next season.”
There is no reason to have a law on the books if it can’t or won’t be enforced, but the question is at this point is a restricted smoking policy enforceable at all in a place like Ocean City. Surely, the beach is nearly impossible to enforce without some sort of major resource allocation. However, the Boardwalk should not be as daunting.
To properly enforce this law on the beach the city would essentially have to spend money and probably a decent amount of it. A smoking patrol of sorts would have to be created. It would have to be something similar to the “meter maids” who walk around reading pieces of paper on vehicle dashboards in metered parking areas.
We don’t support that sort of spending of public dollars. In addition, it would send a bad message to visitors who are here to enjoy themselves rather than be harassed over a lifestyle choice.
The Boardwalk is the place Ocean City should focus on making smoke-free because that’s what the law intends. There is to be no smoking on the Boardwalk, but yet there was plenty of it this summer.
Keeping a smoke-free Boardwalk is a realistic goal, while the beach will most likely always be dependent on the morals and values of the people. Some people will simply do what they want and refuse to cooperate. That will be difficult to combat on the beach, but it’s a bit more manageable to monitor on the boards. That should be a focus next season.