After a month to review public comments, scientific data and their own concerns about implementation, members of Bethany Beach’s Charter and Ordinance Review Committee voted unanimously on Sept. 20 to recommend a smoking ban for the town’s beaches.
While some have remained focused on such a ban as a way to help reduce litter on the town’s beaches and to reduce safety threats from lit and discarded cigarettes, the bulk of the reasons to pursue a ban, as stated last Thursday, revolved around health.
Committee members pointed to a number of statistics and studies that revealed information surprising to most attending the meeting:
• According to the U.S. Surgeon General in 2006, some 50,000 fatalities result annually from second-hand smoke, labeled by the Surgeon General as a “serious health hazard.”
• Studies by Standford University in 2006 indicated that, while many believe smoke disperses in the outdoors to where it is not a second-hand health threat, at least 6 feet of distance and having smokers downwind of others was required to avoid pollution rates up to 50 times normal ambient readings.
• A University of Maryland, Baltimore College, 2005 study on the presence of multiple smokers in a given outdoor area revealed that at least 23 feet of distance was needed to avoid second-hand smoke. The study also indicated that larger congregations of smokers, such as those gathering in a designated smoking area, led to conditions where smoke dissipated no better or more quickly than it would indoors.
• Even executives at cigarette manufacturing companies have deep concerns about smoking near children, with the advice given in recent years that smoking should be banned near playgrounds and tot-lots.
Committee members also took under advisement the response of 62 citizens who had taken the time to respond to a yes/no survey and request for detailed responses on the subject by Vice-Mayor Tony McClenny, who heads the group.
Of those responses, six people favored allowing smoking anywhere outdoors, including on the beach; six favored banning smoking on the beach or boardwalk but not in all public areas of the town; and 50 favored smoking being banned in all of the town’s public gathering areas, including the beach, boardwalk and bandstand area.
The figures reflected nationwide statistics on the subject of banning smoking, wherein most polls have found between 75 and 90 percent of those polled favored a ban on smoking in public.
On that basis, CORC members on Sept. 20 voted unanimously to recommend to the town council a ban on smoking on Bethany Beach’s shore. They also agreed to send along to the council additional considerations they believed should be weighed regarding a possible accompanying need for smoking to be banned on the boardwalk, in the bandstand area, near the town’s playground and new nature center, and in the waters at the shoreline.