Beach smoking ban to be aired publicly

The Bethany Beach Town Council voted at their Oct. 19 meeting on the issue of a smoking ban for the town’s beaches, ocean, boardwalk, bandstand, parks and playgrounds. But the vote wasn’t the one smoker’s-rights proponents have feared since the issue was first raised early this summer — at least not yet.

Council members voted 5-1 to hold a public hearing on the smoking ban recently recommended by the town’s Charter and Ordinance Review Committee (CORC) after months of research and study.

The date for the planned November public hearing had not been set by Coastal Point press time this week, but it met opposition from Council Member Steve Wode, who said a November hearing was too late in the year for many of the town’s citizens to get involved.

“I’m concerned we will end up doing legislation on this over the winter,” Wode said. “I don’t know why we have to rush.”

Wode said he would prefer the council to wait until after the 2008 summer season to decide whether a smoking ban for the beach and other public areas should be implemented.

“We have a much larger beach now,” he said. “I think we should wait until after the beach comes back and then we’ll see what kind of beach we have. I think we’ll find there will be much less of an issue.

“I don’t like cigarette butts on the beach,” Wode added. “But it seems a little too much to prohibit smoking on the beach.”

Vice-Mayor Tony McClenny disagreed, reiterating arguments related to the health impacts of second-hand smoke that he had heard over the last two months as chairman of CORC.

“The medical community has weighed in,” he said, “and states are going in this direction, one by one. We have a lot of children who come to this town, and we need to approve this without waiting.”

McClenny said there had been no rush to reach the point of recommending a smoking ban in Bethany, with a “slow, methodical” process bringing the town to scheduling a hearing. “There was no rush to bring this to a public hearing,” he said. “And I feel this is an issue that needs public attention.”

Olmstead referenced several dozen e-mails that had been received on both sides of the issue — though most have favored a ban — since the town first started talking about it, emphasizing that the town has and will continue to seek public comment on the recommended ban.

Wode was the only council member to vote in opposition to scheduling a public hearing on the issue in November. Council Member Bob Parsons was absent from last Friday’s meeting.