Smoking ban on beaches and public recreation areas to be enacted January 2016

Nov 5, 2015

As of Jan. 1, 2016, no one will be allowed to smoke on public beaches or recreational areas around Wareham and Onset.

The Board of Health voted Wednesday evening to ban smoking of any kind on town beaches, beach dunes, access points and waterways. The ban also includes no smoking in or on recreational areas, such as public parks and playgrounds, and does not just apply to cigarettes. In addition to cigars and pipes, devices like e-cigarettes are also banned.

But the law does have a loophole. Because the Town only owns areas of beaches that are out of the water, there is nothing to prevent people from wading into the water and smoking, Town Attorney Richard Bowen said.

“With regards to activities out on the water, I think it’s doubtful that you could stop somebody walking any distance out in the water, and prevent them from smoking,” Bowen said. “It would probably be simpler to characterize the ban as applying to any dry area of public beaches.”

The Board amended the law accordingly. Health Agent Robert Ethier said in a later interview enforcement of the law will largely be a "police yourself matter" – in other words, it will be up to the residents to enforce the law with one another. He said Don't Trash Wareham will be responsible for creating the signs and putting them on the beaches, and "if there is a problem, [Don't Trash Wareham] will call us, and we'll call the police or the Harbormaster, and the three of us can write tickets, or whatever we have to do."

Though there will be a fine for any lawbreakers, Ethier said there is no specific fine schedule in the law as of right now.

Board member Dr. Thomas Gleason said after the meeting the impetus for the ban came from the results of a cleanup by local anti-trash organization, Don’t Trash Wareham. During that particular cleanup, Gleason said, the organization picked up 4,681 cigarette butts.

“There is so much secondhand smoke, and the amount of trash that it generates – the cigarette butts – those are the two issues,” Gleason said.