Tybee Island City Council votes to approve ban on smoking at the beach

Published: May. 12, 2022 at 10:50 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Smoking will soon be banned on all beaches on Tybee Island.

Tybee Island City Council approved the ordinance change Thursday night.

The ban applies to all tobacco and related products including vapes.

It also prohibits them on the beach, the ocean and on all crosswalks to the beach – including the pier.

City staff says almost half a million cigarette butts have been collected from the beach in the past 5 years.

“Many many people including this council have been frustrated at the litter especially the cigarette butts. It is unfortunate the people who do the right thing often have to bare the consequences of people who don’t,” said Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions.

Tim Arnold with Fight Dirty Tybee said, “we’re ecstatic. We’ve been waiting for Tybee city council to come together and make it a smoke-free beach for a very long time.”

Some of this new ban’s biggest advocates are those, like Tim Arnold, who spend hours picking up the litter off the beach. Arnold says time and time again, the number one item left behind after a day at the beach are the cigarette butts.

“You can’t get three feet without getting 10 cigarette butts on Tybee.”

The goal is for this number to get down to 0 … now that ALL forms of smoking are banned on the beach, the crossovers and the pier … effective June 1.

“The responsibility that comes with smoking on the beach has been abused. We’ve picked up over 500,000 cigarette butts now in a four-year span.”

While beachgoers do have varying opinions … they both say they were surprised to hear of this decision.

“I think that’s a good idea,” said Nancy Flax who is visiting Tybee.

Frank Slomzenksi also said, “I just think you should let people do more of what they want to as long as they’re not effecting others and I really can’t see how smoking affects others.”

Nancy Flax says she visits Tybee often and this ban will help her enjoy the beach even more.

“I respect their individual taste, but I would rather not smell it or be near it.”

Visitor Frank Slomzenski says he would rather see a ban on a section of the beach which is something Tybee tried for about two years before the total ban.

“Why penalize everybody? I don’t even smoke. I don’t care if people smoke. I grew up with people smoking all around me.”

According to the city, council was split 50/50 in a vote, Thursday, until Mayor Shirley Sessions broke the tie. The city says there will be areas off the beach where people can smoke.

“Enjoy a cigarette off the beach and then come back on the beach and dispose of it properly and all is good.”

Again the ban goes into effect on June 1. For three weeks, warnings will be given out by code enforcement. After that if you’re caught smoking on the beach the city says you will be given a $300 fine.

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