May 15, 2010 - Although the number of indoor safe havens for smokers has shrunk drastically, one North Carolina city has refrained from creating a new no-smoking area outdoors as well.
On Thursday, May 13th the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen declined a proposal to ban smoking on the beach. Instead, the board voted 3-2 to increase the littering fine for discarded cigarette butts from $100 to $250. The decision might seem like a "win some/lose some" outcome for smokers, but it also reflects an unfortunate aspect of some government actions: the tendency to single out socially unpopular activities.
The health risks associated with tobacco use are well known, and many beachgoers might find the smell of smoke an intolerable irritant. At the same time, do Wrightsville Beach officials have a rational basis for decreeing that, as litter, a cigarette filter qualifies as more objectionable than, say, a Styrofoam cup? Is a carelessly discarded butt 150 percent worse than a carelessly discarded bottle and therefore deserving of a fine 150 percent greater?
Or did three of the five town aldermen simply see an easy political target and proceed to kick sand in its face?
North Carolina is the leading tobacco growing and tobacco manufacturing state in the country.
Reference: You can smoke your butts on the beach, but don't drop themGaston Gazette, 5/14/2010.