Smoking on the Wildwoods Boardwalk could soon be illegal.
Ordinances banning smoking on the 38-block Boardwalk and its adjoining ramps and stairs were introduced earlier this month in Wildwood and North Wildwood and could get final approval in the coming weeks.
The prohibition wouldn’t go into effect until 2018. Municipal officials said they want to give people time to understand and comply with the new restriction.
“The summer of 2017 is going to be an educational period,” North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello said. “We’re going to ask people to refrain from smoking this year and that it will be banned for next year.”
Rosenello said discarded cigarette butts pose a fire hazard. The Boardwalk, he said, sees several minor trashcan fires every year as a result of smoldering cigarettes. It’s also a health issue, he said.
“Public health and public safety are the two main issues,” Rosenello said. “The effects of secondhand smoke have become very, very obvious and well-known.”
“A lot of people don’t like to be interrupted with secondhand smoke,” Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano said. “At this time, it seems to be the right thing to do.”
Not everyone sees the need for the ban.
“I don’t think it’s that big of a deal if people smoke, because it’s outside,” said Tyler Savage, 21, of National Park, Gloucester County, who was smoking a cigarette Thursday while walking on the Boardwalk.
Wildwood’s wooden walkway wouldn’t be the first prominent South Jersey boardwalk to go smoke-free.
Ocean City banned smoking on its Boardwalk in 2014. Since then, enforcing the rule hasn’t been an issue, Ocean City police Capt. Steven Ang said.
“It’s one of those ordinances where it’s more of an educational ordinance,” he said. “It’s not one of those ordinances where we’re out there writing tickets.”
Ang said the vast majority of smokers have been cooperative and were not aware of the rule before lighting up.
Violators of the proposed Wildwoods Boardwalk ordinance could face penalties. In North Wildwood, a first-time offender could face a fine of up to $250; in Wildwood, smokers could be fined up to $1,000 or sentenced to 90 days in jail, according to each municipality’s respective city code.
Rosenello said he doesn’t expect serious repercussions for Boardwalk smokers.
“I don’t envision that people will be issued summonses because of this,” Rosenello said.
Smoking is already banned at Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Water Parks, one of the Boardwalk’s most popular attractions.
Rosenello said the city will use the public-address system on the Boardwalk to get the message out about the smoking ban if it’s given final approval.
The ordinances have already passed on first reading and are expected to be up for a public hearing and final approval at the May 24 Wildwood City Commission meeting and the June 7 North Wildwood City Council meeting.