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Carolina Beach Council Opinions Indicate Beach Smoking Ban Likely

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CAROLINA BEACH - The Carolina Beach Town Council will consider a proposed ordinance to implement a ban on smoking on the beachfront at their August 14, regular meeting.
The Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen debated the issue earlier this year ultimately voting not to implement such a ban. Concerned residents petitioned the Board to hold a referendum that will appear on the November 2012 ballot posing the question of whether or not to ban smoking on their beachfront.  Earlier this month Kure Beach Town Attorney Andy Canoutas informed their Council such a ban wasn't an option for Kure Beach.
During the July 19, Council meeting Canoutas explained, "Under the state law which is "Smoking Prohibited in Public Places and Places of Employment" that the legislature passed... states that local governments can pass these ordinances on local government grounds. When you read the definitions of the general statute, grounds is defined as an unenclosed area owned, leased or occupied by the local government. Well, we don't own any of that out there" on the beach. Wrightsville Beach has a unique scenario due to state legislation adopted in 1939 that gives them title to the beach to the high-tide watermark. A mark that is a moving target with beach erosion and periodic beach nourishment projects. Carolina Beach is more limited in the area where a smoking ban could be imposed on the beach.
Their Town attorney is currently researching that issue and a draft ordinance for consideration in August. At their July 10th meeting it appeared the area Carolina Beach could impose a ban would be from the North End Fishing Pier to the area of the Carolina Beach Lake. A 1963 building line would facilitate ownership of the beach by the Town and permit such a smoking ban within that limited area, but not at Freeman Park on the northern end of the Island or south of the Lake south towards Kure Beach.
The issue has generated a lot of public discussion among citizens at meetings and in letters to the editor (See above).
On Monday July 30, Carolina Beach Mayor Ray Rothrock explained, "I'm against it for several reasons. First, when it came to Council the concern was cigarette butts on the beach, then it was second hand smoke." He said the Town should focus on littering in general and nothing beyond that issue. He said, "If littering is the problem, let's enforce our existing littering laws."
Rothrock said currently the Town is looking at spending thousands of dollars in attorney fees drafting an ordinance when they could be spending that money to enforce or tighten up on the existing littering law that covers all litter, not just cigarette butts.
Rothrock said, "Enforcement will be a waste of time. If we enact a smoking ban, many people will likely go elsewhere" such as Kure Beach, Fort Fisher or other coastal areas without bans in place. He added that paying thousands for research on a ban is largely a waste of time and taxpayer money.
Councilman Bob Lewis said he at least wants to have a discussion about the ban. He was out of Town on business and not able to attend the July meeting where the Council voted to direct the attorney to research and return with a proposed ordinance on August 14. Lewis said Tuesday, "I don't like the fact that we may be creating a non-smoking and smoking sections on the beach. Plus, I have some issues with enforcement which could be ridiculous. I support a non-smoking beach" but there are issues that need to be discussed. He added, "Plus I've heard from some people there's an older loyal crowd of visitors that may be discouraged from returning."
Council member Sarah Friede said she thinks the ban, "Is the right thing to do based on the science that's been presented to us" indicating there's no safe level of exposure to second hand smoke. She explained, "There are things worth spending money on and this is one of them. It's part of the cost of doing business. When a law gets passed, people obey the law. I hope I'm not naive, but people will do the right thing for the most part. We should not assume people will willfully ignore the law."
Friede explained smoking is a more visible violation with smoke in the air unlike general littering or drinking on the beach.
Councilman Lonnie Lashley said at the July 10th, meeting it's a bold move in the right direction and he would have voted on it that night.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth made the motion at the July 10th meeting to direct the Town to research the ordinance and explained he was in favor of such a ban in whatever areas of the beach the Town ultimately has the authority to impose a ban. He also said expanding those areas may require going to the State legislature for further approval. The Council will hold a public hearing on any proposed ordinance prior to final approval. The item will be on their agenda for the Tuesday August 14, meeting at 6:30PM at Town Hall.