Editorial: Beach butts — ban them

Editorial: Beach butts — ban them


For the sake of fresh air, clean sand and tender toes, beach operators need to draw a line in the sand against smoking.

Bills before the Rhode Island legislature have attempted to accomplish just that for state beaches there. Massachusetts lawmakers would do visitors to Horseneck and other places a favor by following suit.

Cigarettes are right up there with jellyfish, seaweed, green flies and sandwich-snatching seagulls in their ability to put a damper on a good beach day. There’s not much to be done about those other four, but cigarettes can and ought to be banned on the beach.

An enterprising Portsmouth college student set out a few summers ago to gauge support for steps to rid beaches of this nuisance. Starting at her home-town Sandy Point Beach, she polled beach visitors about cigarettes. Most she talked to thought beaches would be well rid of cigarettes.

That’s hardly a surprise.

Good clean salt air is part of beaches’ allure and nothing quite taints that pleasure like a beach neighbor lighting up a smoke 20 feet upwind.

Worse perhaps is what happens to the butts. Smokers protest that they’d never toss a butt into the sand but the evidence suggests otherwise. The Coastal Conservancy reports that 38 percent of trash removed from beaches and coastlines last year was smoking related.

Laden with toxins and bacteria, cigarette filters are especially revolting bits of flotsam — bite size for toddlers and shore creatures. And for sheer pain, crab bite and jellyfish sting are no match for the misery of stepping on a buried but still smoldering butt.

Smokers protest that they’ve already been hounded from most indoor places and now the cigarette vigilantes are forcing them out of the outdoors too.

There is good reason for that ostracism— especially at beaches. People pay dearly to visit the beach and the price of admission to these public places ought to assure pristine air and sand.

Cigarettes foul both of these so ought to be forbidden.