Beachgoers hoping to enjoy a smoke on the beach this summer will have to look elsewhere.
The City Council voted unanimously to ban smoking on city beaches, the boardwalk and at parks and other recreational areas at Tuesday’s meeting, but not before residents and council members alike questioned the language in a change to city code prohibiting smoking and how the measure would be enforced.
The initiative is part of a nation-wide trend, and, according to the city, there are 261 cities and counties with smoke-free beach laws and 1,263 with smoke-free park laws, including Nassau County, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Seattle. In 2013, Governor Cuomo announced smoke-free expanded zones in state parks.
In 2014, Nassau County banned smoking in its parks. Playgrounds and other recreational areas in county parks were included in the smoke-free areas, as well as on athletic fields and throughout county preserves. Suffolk County passed a local law in 2012 with similar safety goals in mind, and Long Beach pursued legislation of its own.
Tobacco-related illness is a leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., officials said. Aside from being a health hazard, officials said that cigarette butts create a litter problem and are regularly discarded on the boardwalk. Last year, 207 people signed a petition on Change.org calling for a smoking ban in Long Beach parks, beaches, the boardwalk and Kennedy Plaza.
“This really is a public health issue,” said Police Commissioner Mike Tangney. “Through my many years in the department, many people would complain about smoking on the beach.”
Though residents and council members lauded the proposed ban before the vote, council members Eileen Goggin and Anissa Moore raised concerns about the initial language in the resolution to change the city’s code of ordinances, saying that the ban could penalize smokers and even non-smokers simply for possession or carrying cigarettes. Councilman Scott Mandel agreed, and called to clarify the language.
The original ordinance stated that the sale, use or possession of any cigarette, cigar, pipe or electronic cigarette, smoking or inhalation device that creates an aerosol or vapor, in any park or recreation area, including any portion of beach or boardwalk, is prohibited.