Beginning in mid-July, there’s a No Smoking policy in effect on the boardwalk.
Ocean City Council unanimously approved an ordinance banning smoking anywhere on the boardwalk, including the ramps and stairs leading to the boardwalk Thursday night
The original wording of the legislation was changed from “tobacco products” to “smoking” to reflect the inclusion of electronic cigarettes, a form of smoking that has always been covered by the ordinance despite some confusion on that matter over the past week.
The vote came on the same day in which the State Senate passed a ban on smoking in county and municipal parks across the state.
“The governor said he would veto that legislation because he would rather have the municipalities decide what they want to do,” said Councilman Scott Ping, who sponsored the legislation.
Legislation passed by the Senate on Thursday leaves the decision of whether to ban smoking on the beach up to the individual municipalities, according to nj.com.Smoking was previously banned in parks and recreation areas in Ocean City.
Hank Glaser, the former president of the Boardwalk Merchants Association, voiced the association’s concerns during the meeting.
“We don’t want to insult our visitors,” Glaser said. “Smokers aren’t criminals.”
He said he hopes the police department abides by its current policy of giving out warnings and distributing tickets conservatively, if at all. He also voiced concerns about smoking in the streets.
“I’ve had discussions with the police chief and he’s very clear it will remain as is with warnings issued and few, if any, summonses unless there is a complete disregard for the officer’s instructions,” Ocean City Business Administrator Mike Dattilo said.
He also recognizes the legislation can lead to a situation in which people are smoking by the boardwalk entrances, leading non-smokers to possibly walk through a cloud of smoke before getting on to the boardwalk.
Council has discussed multiple solutions in an effort to keep the path to the boardwalk as smoke free as possible.
“We’re all going to work together,” said Mayor Jay Gillian, recognizing this is “not an easy situation for merchants and guests of the city.
“We’re going to try to find the best solution for everybody,” Council Vice President Michael Allegretto said.
Council was in agreement the ban was the right thing to do and that the solutions would have to be inclusive for all the city’s visitors.
The penalty for smoking in these areas is $100-$250 for the first offense and $500-$1,000 for any subsequent offense.
The legislation was the last piece of legislation sponsored by Ping, whose term on council ends on Monday. He chose not to run for re-election this past spring.
“Years ago when we talked about having no smoking restaurants, we had a lot of push back, including from the restaurant owners,” Ping said. “Now you talk to some of these owners and they’ll tell you it’s been better for their business.
“I don’t think we’ll have any problems with this long term. It’s something (council will) keep an eye on this summer and revisit it in the spring.”