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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Editorials Editorial: Smoking Ban: Give and Inch, Take a Mile

Editorial: Smoking Ban: Give and Inch, Take a Mile

Managing Editor

There's been a lot of public discussion regarding a proposed smoking ban on the beach in Carolina Beach.
First, the idea of a beach smoking ban had not surfaced locally until the Town of Wrightsville Beach encountered a citizen-initiated ban. That governing board voted it down twice. Then citizens used a protocol unique to that Town's charter via a petition signed by a number of voters to initiate a ballot referendum.
That's coming up in November on the ballot.
Second, it's clear the state legislature never intended for legislation adopted in 2010 permitting local governments to ban smoking in certain
defined public places to include the beach. If they had, they would have certainly included the word "beach" in that legislation. And they did not.
People who claim second hand smoke on the beach is a health hazard are pushing the realm of reality. When was the last time you had a problem with smoke in an area that typically - even on a calm day - has winds in excess of ten miles per hour. More commonly 15+ mph or more.
Sure, if they were standing right next to someone smoking, second hand smoke might be an issue, but outside of ten feet, I've yet to encounter the presence of second hand smoke.
Many people have argued that it's a littering problem. Then when confronted with the fact that zero citations have been issued for littering in Carolina Beach over the last six months, they fall back on the second hand smoke issue.
Ultimately, our society is trending towards bans on all manner of items. A few decades ago plastic replaced paper bags. Now it's a move to ban plastic bags and cut down more trees for paper. Of course, buying canvass bags make sense, but they need to be cleaned (bacteria build-up). I'm just cautious about supporting a ban of most actions, particularly on the public-trust beach, because every ban makes the next ban easier for people to justify.
We went from no-smoking sections to a ban in restaurants and bars. Next, the beach. Then maybe street
access to the beach. Perhaps the streets. Then all the way up to your lawn. Then anywhere outside. Give and inch... take a  mile.
The primary argument that littering of butts is horrible for the environment is but a ploy towards the real mission, non-smokers just want to push smokers out of existence.
And true, it's not healthy to smoke. But America was founded on the premise that people have a right to do with their bodies as they choose. Any prohibition of such pleasures in the past has proved daunting or downright impossible to impose.
Since January 1, of this year, the Carolina Beach Police Department has issued a grand total of "0", that's "Zero" citations for littering on the beach in Carolina Beach.
If the argument on smoking is that cigarette butts should be banned because they are litter, common sense dictates that if no citations have been issued for items such as
the plastic coffee cup I saw on the beach on Monday, butts being much smaller, it's not likely the police will come running every time some overly concerned citizen decides to play cigarette-guard and clog up 911 trying to report Joe Smith for lighting up on the beach.
And there have been times in the past when I've called 911 to report incidents such as a fire and was met with a busy signal. It would be a shame
 if someone calling in to report Joe Smith smoking on the beach prohibited Jane Smith from reporting a heart attack or an attack of domestic violence.
That's likely to happen.  911 doesn't have an unlimited number of phone lines. They should only be used for emergencies and smoking doesn't fit that description. 
If this ban is adopted some people will feel empowered and walk the beach with their freshly charged cell phone prepared to speed dial 911 at the drop of a hat to report John Smith from Ohio enjoying a cigarette on the beach before returning to his $2,500 a week vacation rental condo.
Ironically, that overzealous citizen would likely get a pizza delivered in shorter order than calling the police during the summer months. Not to defame the police and their response time, but being realistic, they have many, many other more important things to do with their service to the citizens than to worry about some guy smoking on the beach.
But inevitably the police department will catch flack for not responding quickly enough to some citizen's complaint and the Council will find themselves the subject news reports about a citizen confronting them at a meeting saying the police aren't doing their job because they don't issue enough citations to smokers.
We've seen this happen before with people attending Council meetings demanding the Council do something about dogs on the beach, and in one case presenting
a bag full of dog poop to prove their point the Town wasn't doing enough by not enforcing the existing ordinances.