Summer Smoking Enforcement Update Sought

Summer Smoking Enforcement Update Sought
A group is pictured huddled around a smoking receptacle on the beach last month. Photo by Chris Parypa

OCEAN CITY — With another peak summer season in the books, resort officials are seeking information on how the enforcement of the smoking ordinance on the Boardwalk played out over the last few months along with some relief for some businesses in areas where smokers tend to congregate.

During Tuesday’s Mayor and Council meeting, Police Commission chair Dennis Dare outlined the committee’s agenda for next week’s meeting. Some on the council asked Dare to include an update on the Boardwalk smoking enforcement. In 2015, Ocean City passed an ordinance banning smoking on the beach and Boardwalk except within 15 feet of designated smoking areas with the appropriate receptacles.

During the first couple of years with the new smoking ordinance, the focus was on outreach and education. Over the last year or so, however, the focus has changed to strict enforcement with fewer warnings and more citations issued.

The proof was in the pudding when the police commission reviewed the statistics for June. The number of smoking citations issued went up 1,000 percent during the month from 32 citations issued in June 2017 to 354 citations issued in June of this year. During Monday’s meeting, Councilman Tony DeLuca asked for an update to see if that trend played out over the rest of the summer.

“Please include an update on smoking on the Boardwalk in your agenda,” he said. “I would like to know how the citations are going this year compared to last year.”

Councilman Wayne Hartman also asked for an update to see if the June statistics were an anomaly or the new norm.

“The last update we got was in July and I know there was a lot of activity in June,” he said. “I’d like to see how that played out for the rest of the season.”

Councilman John Gehrig brought up the issue of the location of some of the designated smoking areas on the Boardwalk and the placement of the receptacles and the impact it is having on some businesses.

“I’m getting some comments about the congregation of smokers in specific areas,” he said. “There’s a lot of cigarette smoke going into some businesses because they’re all concentrated in one area now. I don’t know if that’s a Police Commission issue or not, but it’s something to talk about down the road.”

While the enforcement side of the smoking ordinance obviously falls under the purview of the police commission, DeLuca said the Coastal Resources Advisory Committee, or Green Team, regularly includes discussions about the placement of smoking areas in relation to the businesses on the Boardwalk.

“That’s one of our agenda items for the Green Team,” he said. “We want to avoid that issue. We want to avoid walkways west and we want to avoid businesses west.”

DeLuca pointed out the possible solution would likely come from a variety of town departments. For example, the public works department places and monitors the designated smoking areas. In addition, there was some discussion earlier this year about smokers tending to congregate around the barriers put in place under the first phase of the Boardwalk access control program.

“We’re working together with public works,” he said. “We’re also working together with the city engineer and the Boardwalk security project and we’re trying to move this to areas where it won’t be annoying. In some cases, it’s very annoying and we know of at least three people who have reached out to us as business owners. We’re going to meet with them and see where they would like to put them.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.