Smoking ban for Ocean City Boardwalk wins support

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Huge numbers of visitors hit the boardwalk day and night through the summer. If a smoking ban is approved June 26, officials say they will have to provide somewhere safe and well lit for smokers to go this summer. (file photo by Bill Barlow) Huge numbers of visitors hit the boardwalk day and night through the summer. If a smoking ban is approved June 26, officials say they will have to provide somewhere safe and well lit for smokers to go this summer. (file photo by Bill Barlow) OCEAN CITY — It’s been years since Ocean City sharply curtailed smoking on the boardwalk, limiting the habit to several small areas along the 2.5-mile ’walk.

Now, an outgoing City Councilman wants butts off the boards entirely, and on Thursday, City Council unanimously backed the move. 
City Councilman Scott Ping, who did not seek reelection this year, had asked for an ordinance to be placed on the agenda for the Thursday night City Council meeting banning smoking on the boardwalk.

Council voted unanimously to introduce the ordinance, the first step toward enacting a ban. It will face a public hearing and final vote at the next meeting, 7 p.m. June 26 at City Hall, Ninth Street and Asbury Avenue.

Ping described it as a safety issue.

“The fact of the matter is, where there’s smoke, there can be fire,” he said.

Council members spoke in favor of the ban, but had concerns about the potential fines.

The ordinance includes a fine of $100 to $250 for a first offense, which climbs to $500 to $1,000 for second and subsequent offences.

Several on council suggested officers should go with warnings rather than tickets wherever possible.

Mayor Jay Gillian said officers are already careful about giving tickets. He said officers give out thousands of warnings each summer to smokers who disdain the existing smoking areas, and typically only write a ticket to the belligerent. He said the officers have a lot of leeway, and that the tickets go to those who really deserve one.

“These are the people who don’t deserve a warning,” he said. “It’s the people who don’t what to follow the rules, that’s who this is for.”

Councilman Antwan McClellan said he’s discussed the ordinance with the members of the Boardwalk Merchants Association, and plans to talk about it with the Mayor’s Council on Physical Fitness.

But according to Gillian, the ordinance will bring up new problems, particularly in finding somewhere for smokers to smoke. The ordinance would put smokers on the sidewalk past the boardwalk steps, but Gillian said the city has a responsibility to make sure those areas are safe and well lit, and that there is somewhere for them to deposit the cigarette butts.

“There’s more to it than just passing this tonight,” he said.

Councilman Keith Hartzell expressed frustration over the number of butts that end up on the beach, stating angrily that the beach is not an ashtray.

Council members also wanted to make sure families did not have to walk through a thick cloud of smoke to get to the boardwalk. They suggested keeping smokers on one side or the other of the boardwalk entranceways.

Hartzell suggested a large, sand-filled area as a site to deposit the cigarette ends. He said smokers usually like to talk to each other while smoking.

“If you give them something big to shoot at, they’ll probably all hang around it,” he said.

Ping suggested the city could follow New York City’s lead, and ban smoking on city sidewalks.

“I think that’s a different ordinance,” said City Council President Tony Wilson. 

While New York has one of the nation's toughest smoking laws, banning smoking in parks, bars and many public areas, it does not appear to be banned on city sidewalks. 


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