WILDWOOD — Barring any surprises, Wildwood’s Boardwalk will be smoke-free in 2018.
The City Commission gave final approval Wednesday afternoon to an ordinance banning smoking on the Boardwalk and its adjoining ramps and stairs.
A similar rule passed first reading in North Wildwood earlier this month and is expected to come up for a final vote at a City Council meeting in June.
It would become the second South Jersey boardwalk to prohibit smoking. Ocean City adopted a similar measure three years ago.
“There’s a different view of cigarette smoking than there used to be,” Mayor Ernie Troiano said.
Smokers could face penalties for lighting up on the boards, but North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello told The Press of Atlantic City last week he didn’t expect the ordinance to lead to severe punishment.
Officials have cited the effects of second-hand smoke and the risk of a fire from discarded cigarettes as the main reasons behind the measure.
Troiano said he recently heard about a trashcan fire that occurred on the Boardwalk near Cedar Avenue. The likely culprit was a cigarette butt, he said.
The Boardwalk is especially susceptible to fires caused by discarded cigarettes, he said.
“They’ll get in the crack (between the boards) and they’ll sit there and smolder,” said Troiano, who is also the battalion chief of the Holly Beach Fire Company. “Some of this wood is of considerable age.”
In 2002, a fire destroyed two stores and caused $1 million worth of damage on the Ocean City Boardwalk, according to Press archives. Officials blamed a cigarette butt for causing the blaze.
No one rose to criticize the ban Wednesday at the City Commissioners meeting during the public hearing on the ordinance.
“I think it’s kind of the way it is,” said Commissioner Pete Byron, referring to the many places that have banned smoking in recent years.
Smoking is already banned at Morey’s Piers and Beachfront Waterparks, one of the Boardwalk’s main attractions.
The prohibition won’t go into effect until Jan. 1. In the meantime, Rosenello said, the municipalities plan to publicize the upcoming ban on the Boardwalk’s public-address system.
“The summer of 2017 is going to be an educational period,” Rosenello said last week. “We’re going to ask people to refrain from smoking this year and that it will be banned for next year.”