With Ocean City’s proposed ban on smoking on the Boardwalk largely symbolic anyway – that would be because an overwhelming majority of people would favor it – one can only wonder why the City Council is having such a tough time figuring out how to implement it.
For whatever reason, members are envisioning large clusters of smokers – during the season, of course – gathering at designated locations puffing away menacingly and creating a great wall of smoke that will block access to nonsmokers.
The ever-present cloud of smoke, as it has been referred to in this debate, doesn’t, or won’t exist, at least according to Stanford University’s 2005 study of second-hand smoke outdoors.
Stanford researchers found that cigarette smoke dissipates rapidly outdoors once the cigarette is extinguished and beyond that, the effects of second-hand smoke are reduced significantly beyond a six-foot perimeter.
This is not to say that second-hand smoke isn’t a problem, or that it doesn’t contain various poisons and carcinogens to which a vast majority of people would rather not be exposed. Most people, these days, don’t even want to see smoke, much less risk the possibility of inadvertently inhaling it.
But the council is overthinking the situation. Accepting that less than 20 percent of the population does smoke, it isn’t as if local government has to go to great measures to accommodate them.
Besides, no matter where cigarette butt receptacles might be placed, it assumes that all smokers will actually use them, when the chances are a good many of them will do what they always do and flick their butts on the ground.
With that in mind, it will be easier to clean up the mess on the street side of the Boardwalk than the beach, which is what people come to see.
The council should stop worrying about getting this ban exactly right, because that’s probably not possible. Stop worrying, impose the ban, place a few butt cans on a portion of some street ends and adjust as may be necessary.