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Park Wants Opinion on Smoking Ban for Beaches

V.I. National Park wants to hear what you think about a plan to prohibit smoking on all of its beaches and within 50 feet of its picnic areas and buildings.

“And no smoking in bathrooms,” Acting Superintendent Mike Anderson said.

The purpose is to protect visitors and the marine environment. Anderson said that the when smokers spend several hours at the beach, they often leave behind a pile of cigarette butts.

The problems caused by the cigarette butts go beyond littering and sanitation. Anderson said the plastic and toxic chemicals in the cigarette butts impact wildlife.

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Cigarette filters are made from cellulose acetate, a plastic that breaks down into smaller pieces over time. Anderson said research has shown every littered cigarette butt can take from two to 25 years to breakdown as toxic chemical compounds continuously leach into the environment.

Birds and marine animals can ingest cigarette butts leading to choking, poisoning or death.

The park’s most popular beach, Trunk Bay, sees the worst impact from cigarette butts, Anderson said, adding that other popular beaches like Hawksnest also have a problem.

Second-hand smoke is also an issue, and Anderson said that there’s only so much space on a beach so it makes more sense to prohibit smoking all together.

According to Anderson, visitors who encounter cigarette butts left on the beach may not want to return to St. John. And he said butts on the beach is not in keeping with the spirit of the Blue Flag designation at Trunk and Cinnamon Bay Beaches.

While no decision has been made as to whether to implement the no smoking rule, Anderson said that the park plans to install cigarette butt containers at Trunk and Hawksnest Bay. If a smoking ban is in place, smokers will be able to put out their cigarettes as they enter the beach. If there isn’t a ban in place, they’ll be able to dispose of their butts in the containers instead of leaving them on the beach.

He said that as money becomes available, the containers will be installed at more beaches.

To comment, write to Anderson at mike_anderson@nps.gov or at V.I. National Park, 1300 Cruz Bay Creek, Cruz Bay, VI 00830. Those who wish to comment have until Jan. 28 to do so.

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