Ocean City Council unanimous for smoking ban

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For now, smoking is allowed in certain areas of the Ocean City Boardwalk, but it will be banned entirely when an ordinance approved Thursday night goes into effect. The ordinance applies to cigarettes, pipes, cigars and electronic cigarettes. (photo by Jen Marra) For now, smoking is allowed in certain areas of the Ocean City Boardwalk, but it will be banned entirely when an ordinance approved Thursday night goes into effect. The ordinance applies to cigarettes, pipes, cigars and electronic cigarettes. (photo by Jen Marra) OCEAN CITY — Despite a plea for a delay on behalf of the Boardwalk Merchants Association, City Council unanimously approved a smoking ban for the boardwalk on Thursday, June 26.

The ordinance bans smoking throughout the boardwalk, as well as on the ramps and steps leading to it.

The plan received strong support from Kim Burns, representing the organization “Tobacco Free for a Healthy New Jersey,” but there were questions from Hank Glaser, of Shrivers Salt Water Taffy.

Long involved in Ocean City Boardwalk issues, Glaser described himself as a retired boardwalk merchant, saying all the current boardwalk merchants were too busy working to attend the meeting.

“We’re really not in opposition,” he said. The organization just had concerns about how the ordinance would be enacted when it goes into effect this summer.

Of primary concern was whether the ramps and stairs would be included in the ordinance, which they are, and where boardwalk patrons would be allowed to smoke.

“There’s nothing open-ended about it,” said Mike Dattilo, the city business administrator, later in the meeting. “It reads as it reads. No smoking on the boardwalk, period.”

Glaser wanted to make sure some accommodations made for those who smoke.

“They’re not criminals. They are visitors,” Glaser said. He wanted to delay the final vote on the ordinance to allow for more input from boardwalk businesses.

Glaser also asked that enforcement be as lenient as possible, which Mayor Jay Gillian has already promised, and that the impact of the ordinance be thought through before it goes into effect.

Gillian said there are issues to be worked out, including where smokers will be allowed.  

Smoking is already sharply limited on the boardwalk, restricted to several marked areas often jokingly referred to as penalty boxes.

Glaser said that system seemed to be working fine, and questioned why it was to be changed.

Councilman Scott Ping had requested the ordinance, one of his last initiatives on the governing body. He decided not to seek another term on council this year, and as of July 1 his seat will be taken by Pete Madden.

At the Thursday night council meeting, Ping expressed annoyance about reports that the ban would include electronic cigarettes, which emit a vapor rather than smoke. The battery-powered devices were already listed in the ordinance, he pointed out. The devices have greatly increased in popularity in recent years. The ordinance also includes pipes, cigars, hookahs and other smoking devices.

The city administration is still working on how to accommodate smokers on the boardwalk, Gillian said.

Putting everyone at the street ends will present its own problems, Glaser said. Non-smoking boardwalk patrons will pass a cloud where smokers congregate, he said.

Gillian said the city is also looking at lighting for the area.

He said the city is still talking about the best answer, and that officials would reach out to Burns’ organization for advice.

“This is not an easy situation for anybody,” Gillian said.

Council members said the city can work out the particulars later, but wanted to get the ordinance on the books.

Ping said a lot of businesses were worried when smoking was originally banned in restaurants, but that was an improvement and that many say it improved their bottom line.

When speaking to City Council, Burns mentioned that the state Assembly approved a ban on smoking on public beaches the same day, as well as parks and other public areas. Towns could allow smoking on up to 15 percent of its beaches, if the bill is signed into law.

It goes back to the state Senate, and must also be signed by Gov. Chris Christie.

Ping said it should not be a big deal for Ocean City to establish smoking beaches and non-smoking beaches, comparing it to the way the city has already established surfing beaches in some areas. 


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