Transcripts

On the Coast: Smoking Bans on the Beach

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:30:43
We move now from the Valley to the coast for our weekly segment, "On the Coast," where coastal reporter Bryan Russo brings us up to date on happenings around the Eastern shore of Maryland and Coastal Delaware. Since we're all about cleaning up this week, today Bryan fills us in on an ongoing debate about cleaning up the beach and the air, as governments in Maryland and Delaware are thinking about banning smoking on the beach and in other areas of their respective resorts. And Bryan Russo joins us now from Ocean City. Hi there, Bryan.

MR. BRYAN RUSSO

13:31:13
Hey, Rebecca.

SHEIR

13:31:14
So let's talk about this smoking ban. New York City just banned smoking in outdoor public spaces. Is this what's being considered in many spots on the coast?

RUSSO

13:31:23
Indeed. More and more resort towns are considering some sort of smoking prohibition. Let's start in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where the most speared debate is happening right now. I talked to Stan Mills, who's one of the Rehoboth city commissions. He was the one who actually brought this issue to the table after a recent coastal clean-up initiative picked up 7,000 cigarette butts in one day in one block area of the beach. And for anyone doing the math, that's like 52 pounds worth of cigarette butts.

SHEIR

13:31:51
Fifty-two pounds, that's kind of gross.

RUSSO

13:31:55
Yeah, and some people would certainly find it disgusting and gross, but Mr. Mills saw it as an opportunity.

MR. STAN MILLS

13:32:00
What we've talked about so far is following or mimicking what some of the other towns up and down the East Coast are doing. And that is looking at possible bans or restrictions in public areas, public parks, children's playgrounds, recreational facilities and including on the beach and boardwalk area.

SHEIR

13:32:18
All right. So what about in other towns like, say, Ocean City where you are?

RUSSO

13:32:21
Well, it was a hot topic, like, several months ago after a citizen started a grassroots campaign to get this issue on the council agenda. And eventually he did get it on the agenda and they had a public hearing on the issue, but things kind of fizzled out after that. Basically the majority of the council was unwilling to put an outright ban on smoking since they worry it might make tourists who smoke go somewhere else on vacation.

RUSSO

13:32:44
But what the Ocean City council has done is ban smoking in all city parks and playground areas.

SHEIR

13:32:49
All right. So we have a bunch of little beach towns between Ocean City and Rehoboth. Let's talk about those towns. Are they doing anything about smoking on the beach?

RUSSO

13:32:56
Well, actually, the smaller towns have already had this conversation a few years ago. See, in Lewes, Del., which is the next coastal town north of Rehoboth, they've had a smoking ban in public parks for several years. And city officials say they've had yet to have any problems with people complying with the law. And in Bethany Beach, which is the town just south of Rehoboth, they have the public park smoking bin as well as a seasonal ban on the beach and the boardwalk.

SHEIR

13:33:19
So you mentioned the tourism argument the Ocean City council is making. On the flipside of that, I want to ask couldn't being a smoke-free beach actually help promote a beach town?

RUSSO

13:33:30
Well, certain people in this debate think so. And they point to a number of beaches in California, for instance, that have had the smoking bans in place for several years. And reportedly, there hasn't been any adverse affects in the number of tourists per season that come there.

SHEIR

13:33:44
Aside from tourism, we also could talk about a cigarette bans potential effect on health, on environmental pollution, but what about the basic idea of governments telling grown adults what they can and cannot do? Is anyone arguing that point?

RUSSO

13:33:59
Well, that's kind of the tripping point in the Rehoboth debate. And, I think, that's what lead the Ocean City council to stop at public parks and playgrounds for their smoking ban. No vacation resort wants to seem like a destination that issues citations for legal, albeit, unhealthy activities like smoking. But I think governments are going to keep looking at the numbers. And as time goes on, it's going to make this decision a little bit more inevitable like Stan Mills explained.

MILLS

13:34:22
The state of Delaware and including the local surrounding states, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, that the smoking adult population varies anywhere from about 15 to 20 percent. So what does that mean? Oh, less than two out of 10 people are smokers. Conversely, that means that eight or more are non-smokers.

SHEIR

13:34:43
Well, Bryan Russo, we look forward to hearing how all of this pans out and to talking with you again next week about the latest and greatest on the coast. Thanks so much.

RUSSO

13:34:51
No problem, Rebecca, take care.

SHEIR

13:34:53
Bryan Russo is WAMU's coastal reporter. He's also the host of "Coastal Connection," Fridays at noon and 8:00 p.m. on 88.3, Ocean City. Visit our website, metroconnection.org, for more information along with a link to Bryan's full interview with Commissioner Stan Mills about how Rehoboth Beach is handling the smoking ban debate.
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