FALMOUTH — Voters at last night’s town meeting gave a big thumbs down to those who like to light up on the town’s public beaches.
Smoking is no longer allowed on any of the town’s 11 public beaches, following a 128-60 vote that makes Falmouth the third community on the Cape to snuff out smoking on municipal beaches. Proponents of the ban cited litter in the form of errant cigarette butts in the sand, as well as the harm caused by secondhand smoke, as the main reasons to pass the smoking ban warrant item.
Barnstable and Yarmouth passed similar bans last year.
“We’re a progressive community and we should demonstrate that we’re a progressive community,” Selectman Carey Murphy said. “We shouldn’t allow our beaches to be turned into an ashtray and that’s exactly what’s happening.”
The ban will be in effect year-round, town beach Supt. Don Hoffer said. But the lifeguards who will enforce the ban are only present during the summer months.
There will be no tickets associated with the new regulation, and cheap cigarettes will still be allowed to light up in the parking lot.
There are civil fines that can be levied against smoking ban offenders similar to the ones issued for open containers of alcohol on the beach, said Frank Duffy, the town’s attorney. But Duffy did not specify the amount of the fine.
Not everyone was on board with the idea.
Even nonsmokers, such as town meeting representative Thomas Peterson, questioned the fairness of the smoking ban, and said 15 percent of the world’s population smokes.
“We shouldn’t send smokers out to the parking lot like second-class citizens,” Peterson said. “It’s not illegal to smoke, it’s not immoral and this is just a matter of fairness.”
Town meeting representative Adrian Dufresne said he quit smoking in 1952, but he agreed with Peterson. “I can’t see us creating a law for the people on the beach for something that’s legal throughout the country,” Dufresne said.
Other opponents of the ban said it would be unenforceable during the off-season, when there are no lifeguards on duty, and they criticized it for only banning cigarettes and not all tobacco products.
In the end, a majority of town meeting voters said they were tired of “inconsiderate” people on the beach who refuse to move even after complaints and throw cigarette filters in the sand, where young children often find them while building sand castles.
“Smoking may not be illegal but it is unhealthy,” said Linda Whitehead, a town meeting representative. “Everyone has the right to smoke if they want to smoke, but they don’t have the right to have everyone else breathe in second-hand smoke.”
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