With little opposition, Lewes Mayor and City Council extended the city's smoking ban to all beaches within municipal limits. Meeting Dec. 8, city officials also approved a change to the smoking ban ordinance to include electronic cigarettes – a suggestion from the public at a Nov. 24 hearing.
Lewes joins more than 225 municipalities nationwide to ban electronic cigarettes, according to American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation statistics. The city joins the likes of New York City, Philadelphia and Boston in banning the devices. E-cigarettes simulate tobacco smoking, but do not contain tobacco. The devices often contain nicotine and emit an aerosol mist rather than cigarette smoke.
City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said he borrowed the definition of “tobacco substitute” from previous legislation brought before the Delaware General Assembly and applied it to the electronic cigarette language in Lewes city code. It reads that electronic cigarettes are “any device employing a mechanical heating element, battery or circuit regardless of shape or size and that can be used to deliver nicotine and other substances into the body through inhalation, including but not limited to electronic cigarette, electronic cigar, electronic pipe, electronic hookah or other similar products that rely on vaporization or aerosolization.”
The City of Rehoboth Beach is also considering adding e-cigarettes to its smoking ban. A decision is expected in the near future.
Enforcement of both e-cigarettes and the beach smoking ban will likely fall on residents, said Mayor Ted Becker.
“I think the expectation is citizens might remind people,” he said.
For folks who would rather avoid confrontation, Police Chief Jeffrey Horvath says to call Lewes Police Department, not 9-1-1. Deputy Mayor Fred Beaufait urged Horvath to issue warnings rather than fines during the first year.
“We're not trying to get in the business of fines,” he said. “We want to educate the public that we do have this nonsmoking [initiative] and politely tell them that it's against the law.”
Under the city code, those who violate the smoking ban can be fined $25 to $200 for a first offense.
To help with the implementation of a beach smoking ban, the American Lung Association has awarded the city with a grant worth more than $10,000. City Manager Paul Eckrich said the money will go toward signs and ashtrays. The grant will not be enough to put ashtrays at each beach crossing, but, he said, more funds may be available through the ALA again next year.