BREAKING NEWS: Bethany adopts beach smoking ban

The Bethany Beach Town Council voted 6-1 on Friday, April 18, to adopt the smoking ban the town has spent the last seven months debating and turning into legislation. With the vote, the town became the first in the state of Delaware to ban smoking on a public beach. Such bans already exist in many California beach towns, as well as on the Great Lakes and in New England. Neighboring South Bethany and Fenwick Island officials have also been discussing possible smoking bans for their beaches but have been waiting for Bethany Beach to adopt its legislation before pursuing their own.

Council Member Tracy Mulligan was the only one of the seven Bethany council members on Friday to vote in opposition to the ban, which bans smoking in and around children’s playgrounds, town parks and on the boardwalk plaza area at the street end of Garfield Parkway on a year-round basis. The ban also affects the rest of the town’s boardwalk and its beach and shoreline between May 15 and Sept. 15 – the traditional summer season in the resort town – except for designated smoking areas at the eastern edge of the new dune.

The ban would be enforced by town police and code enforcement officers – not lifeguards. Violators would receive a written warning on their first offense. The second offense within four months would result in a summons to appear before the town alderman and a $100 fine. The third and subsequent offenses inside four months would result in being taken into custody and appearing immediately before the alderman, with a $500 fine. A violation of the ban more than four months after a prior warning would be considered a new first offense.

Council Member Bob Parsons requested late changes to the legislation at its second reading Friday, to clarify in its statement of reasoning for the ban that the council was not decisively saying that secondhand smoke outdoors is a proven health risk. Instead, the council allowed that the scientific conclusions on that specific health issue are still yet to be made, though secondhand smoke indoors has been accepted publicly as a health hazard and some studies indicate secondhand smoke is also a risk outdoors.

Mulligan’s opposition to the ban continued through the vote this week. He has stated that he does not necessarily believe it is the town council’s place to ban outdoor smoking. Mulligan also emphasized the lack of decisive scientific opinion on the health threat of secondhand smoking outdoors.

For more on the Bethany Beach outdoor smoking ban, pick up the April 25, 2008, issue of the Coastal Point or visit our Web site on April 24 to view next week’s issue online.