(May 1, 2015) If you didn’t take the opportunity this morning to have one last smoke on the Boardwalk, you’ve missed your chance.
Ocean City’s beach and Boardwalk smoking restrictions go into effect today – Friday, May 1 – banning both traditional smokes as well as electronic cigarettes from the Boardwalk and anywhere on the beach outside of designated areas.
Those areas are marked with orange butt cans, placed intermittently in the sand from the pier up to 142nd Street. South of the pier, cans will be located on the concrete walkways between the boards and the inlet parking lot. Smoking or vaping must be done within 15 feet of the butt cans.
In addition to signage on the beach access ramps and on the cans themselves, signs have also been placed along the sidewalks of streets approaching the boards, letting people know to chuck their smokes before they get close.
For the coming season, however, enforcement will remain casual.
“At first, it’s just going to be education,” said Ocean City Police Department Public Information Officer Lindsay Richard. “Officers will be giving out cards with a short description of the ordinance and where to find the smoking areas.”
Violation of the smoking policy can be ticketed up to $500, but this will hopefully be rare.
“Definitely this first summer, it’s primarily education, unless someone is blatantly being uncooperative,” Richard said. “We’re not really planning to go out actively looking for people smoking. If we get a call, or if an officer sees it during normal Boardwalk patrol, they’ll stop and say something and give the person a card.”
Passage of the smoking restriction ordinance came after years of stop-and-go discussion by city leaders, whose major apprehension was that the creation of designated smoking zones would effectively concentrate the smoke in certain areas, and would thus be problematic on the crowded Boardwalk.
Now, with a total smoking ban on the boards, the hope is that smokers will be willing to step off the boards a few feet toward a butt can, or go down the street.
Most recent surveys peg the smoking rate in the United States at 15 to 20 percent. But along with a historic decline in the total number of tobacco users, the intensity of use has also dropped.
A recent study by the New York City Department of Health indicated that 16 percent of New Yorkers smoke. However, of this group, 76 percent smoked 10 or fewer cigarettes per day.
Assuming a similar ratio for the entire Mid-Atlantic region, this would mean that only about five percent of Ocean City’s visiting population would consist of people who smoke heavily enough that they could not wait until after their Boardwalk stroll to light up.
The ordinance going into effect today also prohibits smoking within 15 feet of city bus shelters.