Commission limits ban to parks, playgrounds as resort city joins national and regional trend.
Smoking will be banned in parks and playgrounds in Rehoboth Beach but city commissioners on Friday stopped short of a prohibition of smoking on the beach and boardwalk.
The ban will take effect in 30 days to give municipal officials time to post signs and place cigarette-disposal caddies in the restricted areas.
The commissioners’ 5-2 decision mirrors a local and national trend toward restricting smoking in crowded outdoor areas. Bethany Beach, for instance, already has a ban on smoking on most of the beach and the boardwalk, and Lewes prohibits smoking in parks.
“I see no reason why adults should be in children’s parks and playgrounds smoking,” said City Commissioner Pat Coluzzi. “I think this is a good thing to do.”
Besides the public health issues, Coluzzi said, she felt that a smoking ban in parks and playgrounds, where flammable mulch is often used, would reduce the risk of accidental fires.
City Commissioner Stan Mills first suggested Rehoboth officials look at the possibility of a smoking ban in outdoor, public areas. But several commissioners and residents said they worried that in a resort community where the population changes throughout the summer, it would be difficult to market a smoking ban on the beach and boardwalk.
When the question was again raised on Friday, Commissioner Lorraine Zellers said, “I’m not sure we’re ready for that.”
Among the concerns was how city officials would inform a transient population about smoking restrictions.
Two commissioners, Bill Sargent and Dennis Barbour, had issues with the more limited ban adopted Friday.
“I think this is a bit much for a rather small purpose,” Sargent said, adding that he would prefer statewide legislation that restricted smoking in outdoor, public places.
He called the ordinance well-intentioned “overkill.”
State law already restricts smoking in most indoor, public places.
“This smacks of social engineering,” Barbour said, adding that such ordinances should be based on clear policies of public safety.
Enforcement of the ordinance will be handled first with a warning. The maximum fine for any future offense would be $25.
Mayor Sam Cooper said he could live with the new restrictions. He reminded fellow commissioners how much the world had changed with regard to smoking.
There was a time — not that long ago — when almost everyone at commission meetings smoked and ashtrays were provided to spectators, he said.
“If you proposed this 30 years ago,” he said, “you would have been in the minority.”
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