South Bethany has passed an ordinance to ban smoking on the beaches and on all walkways leading to the beach.
At the third reading of the ordinance on Friday, April 7, the council specified that the definition of "smoking" will include any inhaled and exhaled substance. Specifically, the ordinance places a sweeping ban on cigarettes, cigars, e-cigarettes, vaporizers and anything else that is heated and inhaled. The ordinance will be enforced year-round on public beaches, with no designated smoking areas.
Council member Tim Shaw described the ordinance as a violation of personal rights.
"I know this is going to pass, but I'm not comfortable voting for an ordinance that infringes on personal rights that doesn't solve a clear problem we're having," Shaw said. "We shouldn't be passing laws that take away freedoms for no good reason."
South Bethany falls into a long line of smoking bans enacted in the coastal Maryland and Delaware region. In 2014, Rehoboth Beach passed an ordinance that banned smoking on its boardwalk and beaches, with Ocean City, Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island following in tow.
Council member Frank Weisgerber called the ban practical as it solves a clear problem on their beaches.
"Have you ever been on the beach downwind of someone smoking a cigar?" Weisgerber asked Shaw. "It's not just a personal rights decision at that point; it's a violation of everyone in the area's right to clean air."
Weisgerber pointed to large community support for the bill, with 72 percent responding positively to a survey to the 1,400 property owners in the area. Despite this, Shaw remained ardent in his stance.
"I'm not saying I like smoking," Shaw said. "My wife smokes. I hate it. It will probably kill her, but it is still not my decision to take her rights away."
The ordinance ultimately passed at the vote of 5 to 1, with Shaw as the sole dissenter.