The Newport City Council voted to ban smoking at Newport beaches, public parks and on the Cliff Walk at their meeting on Wednesday night.

In a statement on Facebook, Councilman John Florez wrote:

“Tonight the City Council passed a resolution banning smoking on our beaches. In addition, I introduced an amendment to include the Cliff Walk which was also adopted and passed. Second hand smoking is a serious health risk. And cigarette butts are the top littered item found on beaches according to Clean Ocean Access. More than 230 cities across the country have now banned smoking on their beaches. In addition, the state of Hawaii has banned smoking on all of its beaches. Being the most prominent Seaside City in the Ocean state I was happy that the Council was able to pass this legislation.”

In a interview with the Newport Daily News, Councilwoman Kate Leonard said she was in favor of a ban because:

“Cigarettes on the beach are disgusting”

yea, but so are dudes in banana hammocks and I don’t see those banned in the ordinance.

Are we really going to take our police away from important things like investigating shootings to comb the city looking for scofflaw smokers?

Councilwoman Naomi Neville considered this:

“A lot of these rules are enforced by peer pressure”

I agree. So why create a LAW banning it???

Councilman Justin McLaughlin offered this:

“I don’t expect full compliance in the first year, but within five years nobody will be smoking on our beaches or smoking on the Cliff Walk. It’s the right thing to do and the right time to do it.”

Ok fine. But why stop at the beaches and parks? Shouldn’t we just ban smoking everywhere? Is 2nd hand smoke suddenly not an issue on Thames Street or America’s Cup Boulevard? How about people who smoke in their cars? Isn’t there a possibility that that smoke could bother someone? What about Newport Harbor? Maybe we can deputize a fleet of zodiacs to make sure you’re not smoking at your mooring.

Seriously, what’s the real reason for this ban? Is there science behind this or is this just the nanny state at its finest?

After conducting an extensive study on public smoking bans, Ronald Bayer, a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health had this to say in an interview with PBS:

The evidence of harm to non-smokers on the beach or in a park from someone smoking is virtually non-existent. I looked at the arguments for why we had to ban smoking in parks and beaches, and there were three — and they were really very striking.

One was that smoking is dangerous to people around the smoker. So, it’s one thing if a smoker wants to smoke, it’s his or her business, but as one tobacco control advocate said, if you can smell it, it may be killing you. We’re familiar with the second hand smoke argument — that’s what happens if you ban smoking in a bar, or a restaurant. But the beach or a park is a very different location. It’s open, the air is open. So what is the risk? And the public health people said, we don’t know the exact risk, but there is a risk, and it’s unacceptable.

The second argument was that tobacco butts endanger wildlife, because they get washed into the sea and fish and birds consume these butts and it kills them. Or, cigarette butts represent the kind of revolting kind of litter on beaches, and to prove that, people involved in environmental control would actually count the number of cigarette butts they found on a beach and there are billions and billions of those, as you can imagine.”

However according to an article in Newport Daily News (May 27, 2015) –

“In April, just before the Volvo Ocean Race boats arrived, volunteers from Clean Ocean Access picked up 1,504 pounds of trash from the Fort Adams State Park shoreline. Cigarettes and cigarette filters made up 8 percent of the 7,613 items picked up.”

Wait 8%??? What about the other 92% of trash? I’m really interested. What else should we be banning from our beaches? Perhaps we shouldn’t allow food and drink and maybe we should close the concession stands. And also, just throwing it out there again, I recommend banning dudes who wear banana hammocks.

Professor Bayer continues:

“The third argument, and the most interesting argument to me, was that parents and families have the right to take their kids to the beach, or a park, without seeing anyone smoke. It’s like bad behavior, just the way we want to protect our kids from hearing people curse, or get drunk; we don’t want them to see smokers because maybe they’ll emulate it.

So I said to myself, what’s going on here? What’s the public health impulse that’s involved that leads to these bans if the evidence is so weak? Because everyone in public health believes that what we do should be evidence-based.

As I thought about it, it became very clear that what was involved wasn’t that we were trying to protect non-smokers from sidestream smoke on parks and beaches. We weren’t really concerned about birds and fish. There wasn’t really evidence that we were going to protect kids by disallowing smoking in parks and beaches.

What was involved was that we really wanted to make it less and less possible for people to smoke, because it’s bad for them and we’re trying to protect smokers themselves from a behavior that’s going to increase the risk of disease and death.”

So basically there you have it, the real reason the Newport City Council doesn’t want you to smoke on the beach is essentially because they love you and they believe that you are too dumb to make your own decisions about using a legal product.

There is no other explanation. None.

Kudos to Councilman Marco Camacho for being the only member of the council to vote no!

– Christian Winthrop, Buzz Smoking Correspondent