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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – Smoking bans are all the buzz at the three beach towns in New Hanover County, and leaders in Carolina Beach are the first to approve one. They'll need some assistance from state lawmakers to back the ban if they intend to enforce it.
The handful of candidates running for seats in the General Assembly seem to have different takes on what the resolution would need from representatives in Raleigh.
The candidates for District 9 in the State Senate are the most varied. Deb Butler agrees with Carolina Beach town council that cigarette butt should not cover the beach, but she said the local leaders could solve the problem on their own.
"I would attack the problem by increasing the current fine from 100 to 250 dollars," she said.
Her opponent and incumbent State Senator Thom Goolsby suggests a change to state law would be the best solution. He consulted with the General Assembly's attorneys to form his plan.
"I will work with our local delegation to write effective legislation that will allow citizens to decide these types of issues in a referendum," said Goolsby.
Wrightsville Beach will take the issue to referendum in November, but Goolsby added that the new state law would provide beach towns the authority to enforce the bans as well.
A local bill would not be enough for a smoking ban, according to Goolsby. He said health issues, like smoking, need to be a statewide change.
Kure Beach town commissioner and State House District 19 candidate Emilie Swearingen would also lend her ear to other beach communities. She would support a local bill for any costal town wanting to enforce an issue like smoking on the beach.
"Whether it's here, Currituck County, or anywhere, these issues deserve the attention," said Swearingen.
Her November opponent, New Hanover County commissioner Ted Davis, mostly agrees with Swearingen. The difference comes in the beach towns' approach to the General Assembly. Davis would prefer that all the communities in one county, like the three in New Hanover, appeal to state lawmakers with one, uniform plan for the whole county.
"It's only logical that they're all on the same page," he said.
Tom Gale, whose hoping to represent State House District 20, disagrees with Davis' request for one resolution. He would prefer to hear from each town individually, because they have different concerns.
"What works in Wrightsville Beach might be different in Carolina Beach," said Gale.
New Hanover County commissioner Rick Catlin is campaigning against Gale. As a member of the NC Public Health Commission, Catlin generally supports the smoking ban.
"That part of me thinks it's great," he said.
Yet he is not ready to throw his support behind a ban that reaches into federal jurisdiction. Catlin said tampering with control and ownership of the sand could have an effect on federal assistance with larger issues like beach nourishment.
"There are still more questions than answers at this point," Catlin said.
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