OCEAN CITY — Resort officials have approved an amendment to the town’s smoking ban ordinance, but not before a discussion about the need for more enforcement and possibly more receptacles for cigarette butts.
Throughout the spring, it came to light Ocean City’s existing smoking ordinance had some gaps in it with regards to smoking marijuana and vaping in certain public areas. The proliferation of medical marijuana along with the decriminalization of weed for personal consumption raised concerns some might feel free to light up on the beach and Boardwalk, for example.
On Monday, the council passed an amendment that adds the definitions for smoking marijuana and vaping to the existing ordinance. However, Councilman Tony DeLuca pointed out last year enforcement efforts were enhanced after a two-year grace period and a public outreach campaign and wondered if the increased enforcement was achieving the desired results. DeLuca asked that the issue be put back on the next police commission agenda.
“Last year, we increased enforcement for smoking on the Boardwalk,” he said. “I would like to see that back on the police commission agenda and see how that worked, critique it and see if there is any reason to ratchet that up this year.”
DeLuca, who chairs the Coastal Legislative Resources Committee, or Green Team, said new programs such as Adopt Your Beach and Adopt Your Street have identified cigarette buts as the main culprit for littering.
“With the Green Team, our focus is source reduction and cigarette butts are the number one offender by far,” he said. “With the Adopt Your Beach and Adopt Your Street programs, I’ve had business owners come to me and tell me they sweep up cigarette butts every morning at the street ends.”
DeLuca suggested adding cigarette butt receptacles at street ends on the west side of the Boardwalk similar to those in place in designated smoking areas on the beach.
“With one of our recommendations from the Green Team, we want to look at areas west of the Boardwalk and possibly put in containers like we have on the beach,” he said. “We got a grant from the health department for $38,000 when we put the receptacles on the beach and maybe there is grant money available for receptacles on the Boardwalk.”
DeLuca said he had already heard some complaints about people sitting on the new Boardwalk access control barriers, smoking cigarettes and flicking butts on the ground. This spring, Ocean City installed temporary barriers and dozens of points along the Boardwalk to limit vehicular access in the interest of public safety.
Permanent and more aesthetically-pleasing barriers are coming next year in phase two of the Boardwalk access control plan. In the meantime, it appears many smokers are utilizing the barriers as a resting place to stop and have a cigarette.
“We’re going to look at areas near places with outside dining and we’re going to put up signs that there is no smoking on these barriers,” he said.
Police Commission Chair Dennis Dare agreed a review of the enforcement efforts for the smoking ban on the Boardwalk and beach is a good idea. However, he said the next police commission meeting will be half way through the current summer season.
“The next police commission meeting is in July, so that’s not really timely,” he said. “Is this something where we could have the city manager meet with the police chief and report back to us?”
In the meantime, Councilman Wayne Hartman took off his elected official hat and put on his marketing hat. Hartman suggested some alternatives for the proposed signage including a “no littering, no butts about it” campaign or a “flick it and ticket” campaign.