June Smoking Citations Down 88%

OCEAN CITY — The number of smoking citations issued during the month of June dropped dramatically compared to the same month last year, resort officials learned this week.

In 2015, Ocean City passed an ordinance banning smoking on the beach and Boardwalk except within 15 feet of designated smoking areas with appropriate receptacles. During the first couple of years with the new smoking ordinance, the focus was on outreach and education. However, the focus changed last year to stricter enforcement with less friendly warnings and more citations issued.

As a result of the changing enforcement techniques, the number of citations issued in any given month, in this example June, has been a bit of a moving target, but it appears the ordinance is achieving the desired results.

For example, the number of smoking citations issued in June dropped to 43 from the 357 reported in the same month last year. Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) Chief Ross Buzzuro presented the statistics to the Mayor and Council during a review on Monday of last week’s police commission meeting.

“The number of smoking citations written in June was down considerably,” he said. “It was down 88% from last year. I think we can attribute it to a combination of education, compliance and enforcement.”

Enforcement of the smoking ordinance, at least on the Boardwalk, has become the responsibility of the OCPD’s Public Safety Aides (PSAs), who generally issue warnings and educate visitors about the ordinance, using citations as a measure of last resort when there isn’t compliance. During the public comment period later on Monday, downtown resident Scott Chismar praised the efforts of the PSAs.

“I was not surprised to hear the chief report the smoking citations are going down,” he said. “I’ve been watching the PSAs on the Boardwalk this year and they have been phenomenal. I’ve seen them stop numerous people to let them know and those guys are doing a great job.”

Now in its fourth year, it now appears most visitors understand and are complying with the smoking ordinance. For some, the results did not come fast enough, but Chismar said he was satisfied with the current results.

“You all were a lot more patient with the plan then I was,” he said. “I was skeptical, but I think it’s really working now.”

Chismar said he believes there could be stronger enforcement on the beach.

“When we get past the Boardwalk and down to the shore, there is not a whole lot of enforcement there at all,” he said. “The beach patrol is focusing on the water as they should. I was wondering if you are considering expanding the PSAs’ reach so they can maybe take care of some of the smoking going on at the beach.”

In other news related to smoking and enforcement, Councilman and Green Team Chair Tony DeLuca reported nearly all cigarette receptacles, or so-called butt huts, have been installed along the side streets off the Boardwalk. With the ban on smoking came the unanticipated problem of smokers tossing butts into the street ends off the Boardwalk and the associated litter problem.

In addition, many patrons of Boardwalk businesses were stepping outside to smoke, typically on the new access control barriers at street ends, and casting their butts into the roadway. To that end, the Mayor and Council this spring approved new receptacles, or butt huts, at the end of the access ramps to the Boardwalk, allowing smokers to put out and discard their butts before entering the promenade.

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.