Cape May Bows to Smoking Canadians

Tossing butts on beaches remains a practice in Cape May thanks to the city council's pandering to tobacco-crazy Canadians.

In February, Cape May’s city council voted down a smoking ban on its beaches. So, good news: You can’t take the Jersey out of Jersey, not even in haughty Cape May. At least through the summer of 2012, you’re free to light up and use the beach as your personal ashtray.

If you ask me, Cape May, which has successfully marketed itself as a cut above the rest of the Jersey Shore towns, wimped out. They lost their chance to go balls-out with their fussy Victorian gentility by restoring the pristine salty breezes for all to inhale. The president of the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May, John Cooke, told the Press of Atlantic City that he was concerned a beach-­smoking ban would scare away tobacco-crazy Canadians who love the town. So—speaking of balls-out—we should pander to frosty, smoking Canadians? We’ll get right on that, just as soon as they start selling full-coverage bathing suits for men in Montreal.

Two years ago on July 4th, I was in Levanto, a picturesque Italian beach town. Maybe it was the date, or the flat water, or the fact I couldn’t eavesdrop on a single conversation around me, or maybe it was the lifeguard with the cigarette (and whistle) hanging out of his mouth, but even there, on the Mediterranean, I secretly missed the Jersey Shore.

I grew up in South Philly, without a yard, so every outdoorsy smell reminds me of my long summer days at the Shore, where I first encountered nature. I don’t hate smokers, but I do relish fumigating my pollution-infested lungs and breathing in what still smells clean in a mostly dirty world.

Get your priorities in order, Cape May. You could learn a thing or two from Seaside Heights. They passed a smoking ban in 2009. Perhaps they have a Situation on their hands, but no one’s smoking on their beaches and getting away with it—not Canadians, not even Snooki.

This article originally ran in the June 2012 issue of Philadelphia magazine.