Irritated by smoking on Rehoboth Beach, Steve Curson decided to do something about it, and city officials are listening.
Curson started a petition in September asking city officials to ban smoking on the beach and Boardwalk. He gathered 300 in-person signatures and secured 450 more on Change.org.
Curson brought the petition to the attention of Commissioner Stan Mills in mid-December, and the Rehoboth commissioners took up the topic Jan. 6.
Mills said a smoking ban would reduce litter from cigarette butts, cut down on health risks caused by second-hand smoke, reduce cleanup costs and prevent fires on the Boardwalk. Mills pointed out smoking is banned or partially banned on the beaches in Bethany Beach, Fenwick Island, Dewey Beach and in Delaware state parks. Lewes has a smoking ban in its parks, while Bethany bans smoking on the beach and Boardwalk from May 15 to Sept. 15 but allows smoking in designated areas in the offseason, he said.
Supportin Curson's effort were Deb Brown, CEO of the American Lung Association’s Mid-Atlantic Chapter, who outlined health risks posed by smoking and secondhand smoke, and Ed O’Connor of the Surfrider Foundation, who said cigarette butts do not biodegrade and are bad for the environment.
Commissioner Lorraine Zellers asked how the ban would be enforced and where smokers pushed away from the Boardwalk and beach would go. Mills said some beach towns have designated smoking areas on the beaches or on their boardwalks. Curson said while he doesn’t like the idea of smoking zones, it is something he could live with.
Mayor Sam Cooper and Commissioner Toni Sharp said the city should clarify its reasons for pursuing a ban.
“I’m trying to understand where our real motivation would be, and are we addressing the issues we’re raising,” Cooper said.
Zellers and Commissioner Bill Sargent agreed litter from cigarette butts is a compelling reason for a ban. Zellers proposed including the Bandstand in the ban while Cooper asked if a ban should also include city streets, since cigarette butts thrown on the street also end up on the beach and in the ocean.
Curson, whose mother passed away five years ago due to lung disease brought on by smoking, said after the meeting that he would like to see the commissioners take action before the summer season begins. The commissioners said they will continue to discuss a ban at the Monday, Feb. 10 workshop.
“I think we’ve talked about the who and the what, now we need to talk about the how and the where,” Commissioner Patrick Gossett said.