By Maddy Vitale
The countdown until the smoking ban on the beaches in Ocean City is on.
On Saturday, as temperatures soared, sun bathers flocked to the beaches at “America’s Greatest Family Resort.” Umbrella after umbrella shielded some from the rays.
Families soaked up the sunshine. Sunbathers took cool dips in the ocean and children made sandcastles.
Scores of people were easy to find.
Smokers were not.
But a few of them were around and commented on the city’s smoking ban on the beaches which goes into effect July 10.
Joyce and Troy Amspacher, of Delaware, relaxed on their beach towels. Joyce had her Marlboro Lights in hand, while Troy remarked that he is a former smoker.
“It’s probably a good thing to ban it at the beaches,” Joyce Amspacher said. “So many communities have already done it. I really don’t mind that I won’t be able to smoke on the beach because you have to worry about kids with second hand smoke.”
Rachelle Blescia, of Pennsylvania, did not share that sentiment.
“It is completely unfair,” she said. “You’re outside in a public place where there is wind.”
She said currently, smokers are told to light up near the receptacles at the base of the beaches by the Boardwalk.
Citing health concerns from second-hand smoke and unsightly litter from discarded cigarette butts, Ocean City Council approved the ordinance June 14 to make it illegal to smoke on all the beaches starting in July.
The city joins other shore towns in Atlantic, Cape May, Ocean and Monmouth counties that have already enacted beach smoking bans.
Mark and Kirsty Campbell, of Pennsylvania, love bringing their children Abigail, 10, and Benjamin, 7, to Ocean City to vacation because, they said, it is so family-friendly.
They are very happy about the impending smoking ban, they said.
“We are all for it,” Mark Cooper, a reformed smoker said. “Both of my parents passed away from smoking. There shouldn’t be smoking on the beach. This is important for the next generation.”
Janice Campbell and her family, from Medford Lakes and Ocean City had a lot to say about the smoking ban.
“I heard the news about the ban. We are so happy about it,” Campbell said. “I hate sitting at the beach and having smoke blown in my face.”
Campbell’s daughter, Jessica Campbell, 16, and her friend Grace Potter, 16, said they are relieved that they won’t have to endure wafting smoke and cigarette butts that litter up the beaches.
“It is so annoying when people leave cigarette butts in the sand,” Jessica Campbell said.
Beachgoer Amanda Hurst, of Pennsylvania, thinks that the ban may cut down on some of the litter. In beach sweeps plastic bottles, plastic bags and cigarette butts have been reported as the most common items picked up.
Mayor Jay Gillian, who proposed the ban, said Saturday, “The ordinance is fitting for “America’s Greatest Family Resort,” and I hope it will allow everybody to enjoy our beaches in the safest and healthiest way.”
The mayor added, “My administration had drafted and recommended the amended local law, which now prohibits smoking on the beach, Boardwalk and all public parks and recreational areas.”
In addition to a ban, the ordinance includes financial penalties for violations. For the first offense, fines would range from $100 to $250. Second and subsequent offenses would result in fines between $500 and $1,000.
Ocean City is getting a jump on proposed statewide legislation, now awaiting Gov. Phil Murphy’s approval to become law, that would impose a partial smoking ban on all public beaches in New Jersey.