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By: Breanna Walden
WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, N.C. — The heated debate over banning smoking on the beach reignites. Last November, an overwhelming number of Wrightsville Beach residents voted to make the beach smoke-free.
“I have done beach clean ups before and there’s a lot of cigarette butts, whether it’s on the beach strand or the street, just covered every where, it’s just bad for the environment,” said Dalton Gilley, a Wrightsville Beach resident.
But the smoke-free beach environment may not last for long. A bill in the Senate restricts local governments like Wrightsville Beach from implementing outdoor smoking regulations that go above and beyond state law.
“If you are visiting a town or coming to town, you don’t necessarily assume that you are going to be breaking the law if you smoke a cigarette on a beach,” said Sen. Buck Newton, a bill sponsor.
Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti said it’s a power grab.
“I’m hoping that our other representatives will understand that local control is extremely important, that nobody knows their town best than the local people and they should have some control over what type of regulations they have,” said Cignotti.
Once voters made their decision, the town wasted no time implementing their smoking ban. But town leaders said it doesn’t matter, this bill would still strip them of their ability to have this type of ordinance.
“Once it’s signed into law, we would have to take formal action to repeal the ordinance,” said Tim Owens, the town manager.
Gilley said this bill ignores the fact that residents are the ones who wanted a smoke-free beach
“It’s kind of against everybody else’s judgment, it’s letting the state do its thing and not letting everyone have a voice.”
This bill would also affect Carolina Beach. Right now their smoking ban is in limbo.
The town is waiting to hear from the state on whether they have enforcement power on the beach strand.