OLD ORCHARD BEACH, Maine — Visitors to the beach will now be greeted by a sign asking them to extinguish their cigarettes before heading out to the sand.
The town council passed a resolution in November asking people not to smoke or use other tobacco products on the beach, and making the beach a voluntary smoke-free zone.
The resolutions came after discussions regarding a suggested ordinance proposed by four local students: Hattie Simon, MaryKate Slattery, Sarah Jenkins and Sabryna Deschaies. As eighth-grade students in 2009, the four girls received a grant after attending the annual Anti-Tobacco Youth Summit sponsored by the Maine Youth Action Network.
Wednesday afternoon, signs asking beachgoers “Please Do Not Use Tobacco Products on our Beach,” in both English and French, were put in place in front of walkways to the beach.
“I’m so proud of our group and everyone who helped make this possible,” Simon said Wednesday afternoon, standing beside a new sign at the end of Union Avenue.
“I’m on the beach every day in the summer and a lot in the winter,” Simon said.
She said smoking on the beach is a health issue and an environmental concern, as it causes secondhand smoke and litter of cigarette butts.
“I think over time it will become a cleaner and more family-friendly beach,” she said.
William Paterson, project director with Coastal Healthy Communities Coalition, said there are about 60 signs now in place, and the goal is to have a total of 80. The signs have been paid for by the Coastal Healthy Communities Coalition through the Fund for Healthy Maine, as well as grant money the four teens received. Funds are currently being sought for educational material and additional signs.
Paterson said that Huntington Beach in California, which has a no-smoking policy in place, has attracted more visitors after it became smoke-free, and he said he believes it will happen in Old Orchard Beach as well.
Other beaches in Maine that have tobacco-free policies include South Portland, Biddeford, Scarborough, Portland, York and Ogunquit.
Simon said she will be working to help establish a no-smoking on the beach policy in Kittery as well. Simon is the recipient of the 2012 Eastern Regional Youth Advocate of the Year Award by The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
She will receive a $2,500 scholarship and a $500 grant from the campaign and will attend the Youth Advocates of the Year Awards Gala at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel on May 17 in Washington, D.C.
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