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Nanny of the Week: Even a summertime trip to the beach can’t be nanny-free

By   /   May 30, 2014  /   No Comments

Part 7 of 36 in the series Nanny State of the Week

By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org

With Memorial Day now in the year’s rear-view mirror, summer has officially begun.

Millions of Americans will spend part of their summer at the beach — hoping to soak in the rays, play in the surf and enjoy the freedom that only a summer vacation can provide.

HEY KIDS: Got a building permit for that sand castle?

HEY KIDS: Got a building permit for that sand castle?

But lest you think a carefree summer getaway can be free of government nannies, we’re here to offer some examples of how beach towns are trying to control what you do and how you do it.

Ocean City, Md., made headlines earlier this month for instituting a new ban on profanity at the beach.

Though there is no legal punishment for mutter a swear word after being decked by a large wave or losing a game of beach volleyball, the town posted dozens of signs along its boardwalk and beachfront reminding visitors to watch their mouth.

How are the signs working? Well, not so great, if you believe the Washington Post.

By the looks of the boardwalk traffic Saturday morning, the masses had already begun to flock. Children on bikes with training wheels trailed their parents. Older couples casually strolled, unpressed for time. And (Tiiler) Irving and his friends sat taking in the fresh air, flinging curses back and forth nonstop just feet from one of the new, baby-blue no-swearing signs.

“We came here to unwind,” Irving, of Baltimore, said. Telling him not to curse, he said, is like telling him not to breathe. “You can take us out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of us.”

There might not be a fine for swearing in Ocean City, but in Wildwood, N.J., wearing shorts that sag a bit too low or skirts that officials think are a little too tight could leave your wallet $200 lighter.

The popular Jersey Shore town (not the location of the formerly popular MTV series, which was filmed in Seaside Heights) approved the ban and fines last year. The dress code also bans anyone from going barefoot on the town’s boardwalk and requires that shirts  be worn after 8 p.m.

Mayor Ernie Troiano told The Guardian last year that the ban was intended to make the boardwalk a more welcoming place for visitors and were passed in the name of decency.

Earlier this year, lawmakers in New Jersey approved a statewide ban on smoking at all public beaches, something that most popular beaches had already adopted during the past decade.

But the state law comes with more serious teeth. Get caught lighting up at the shore and you could face a fine of up to $1,000.

The resort town of Bethany Beach, Del., took things a step farther this summer. With smoking already banned at public beaches there, city officials decided to extend the ban to electronic cigarettes as well.

We’ve covered the debate over e-cigarettes quite a bit here at Watchdog.org. The battery-powered devices allow a user to inhale a mix of water vapor, nicotine and flavoring — they contain neither smoke nor tobacco, making them both safer for users and less annoying for everyone else.

Even so, that hasn’t stopped towns and cities across the country from regulating them exactly the same as traditional, tobacco cigarettes.

Why did Bethany Beach decide to ban e-cigarettes too?

Vice Mayor Jack Gordon told WDEL-AM that e-cigarettes have made enforcing the current smoking ban difficult; he says unless you actually walk up to someone and look closely, you don’t know whether someone is smoking a cigarette or an electronic cigarette.

I suppose it’s only a matter of time until the town bans candy cigarettes, for the same reason too.

For their efforts to control how freedom-loving Americans spend their summer holidays, city officials at beach towns across the mid-Atlantic region are this week’s winners. For regulating public places so heartily, their prize is getting lots of sand in their, well, private places.

Boehm is a reporter for Watchdog.org and can be reached at EBoehm@Watchdog.org. Follow @EricBoehm87 and @WatchdogOrg on Twitter for more.

Part of 36 in the series Nanny State of the Week
  1. Nanny-state state of the week: MD may become first to ban Vaportinis
  2. Nanny-state city of the week: Minneapolis wants to ban take-out trays
  3. Skim is in: CT lawmakers want to ban whole milk in day cares
  4. Nanny state of the week: Fairfax, VA, wants to limit the right to assemble
  5. Nanny state of the week: SC — and Schumer — for duplicative efforts to ban powdered alcohol
  6. Nanny of the Week: Virginia hoses down car wash fundraisers
  7. Nanny of the Week: Even a summertime trip to the beach can’t be nanny-free
  8. Nanny of the week: Federal authorities think feral cats can read signs
  9. Nanny of the week: Cambridge wants to ban ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft
  10. Nanny-stater of the week: NY lawmaker wants to ban photos with tigers
  11. Nanny-stater of the Week: Who needs cupcakes and candy? Here, have a pencil
  12. Nanny-stater of the week: Fargo limits kids to less than four shots of juice per day
  13. Nanny-stater of the week: Wisconsin towns fight repeal of bow ban
  14. Nanny of the week: No fun in the sun, thanks to Congress and FDA
  15. Nanny-stater of the week: DOT to ban cell phone use on planes
  16. Nanny of the week: The out-of-control trend of arresting non-helicopter moms
  17. Nanny of the Week: Vermont city could ban ‘human activity’
  18. Nanny of the Week: Mississippi makes bird feeders illegal – by accident
  19. Nanny of the week: MO town bans breastfeeding near pools
  20. Nanny of the Week: School bans lip balm, 11 year-old girl fights back
  21. Watchdog.org blows lid off Vermont’s bake sale brownie ban
  22. Nanny of the Week: Seattle imposes fine on residents who throw away food
  23. Nanny of the Week: California bans plastic bags
  24. Nanny of the week: Maybe this time it will be different for Chicago
  25. Nanny of the Week: Florida growls at craft breweries’ growlers
  26. Nanny of the Week: Massachusetts town seeking to ban tobacco faces uprising from residents
  27. Nanny of the Week: Proposed bans on Thanksgiving Day shopping
  28. Nanny of the week: U.S. government bans ‘Comfyballs’ underwear
  29. Nanny of the Week: Better take down those holiday decorations
  30. Nanny of the week: Towns ban sledding
  31. Nanny of the Week: New York City plans to ban out-of-state cars
  32. Nanny of the Week: Snow-shoveling teens get in trouble with the law
  33. Nanny of the Week: Get caught wearing yoga pants three times, go to jail for life
  34. Nanny of the Week: Georgia lawmaker wants to ban mermaids, werewolves, other fictional creatures from real life
  35. Nanny State of the Week: Endangering manatees in Florida
  36. Nanny of the Week: Christie caves to protectionist gravestone proposal in N.J.


Eric is a reporter for Watchdog.org and former bureau chief for Pennsylvania Independent. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he enjoys great weather and low taxes while writing about state governments, pensions, labor issues and economic/civil liberty. Previously, he worked for more than three years in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, covering Pennsylvania state politics and occasionally sneaking across the border to Delaware to buy six-packs of beer. He has also lived (in order of desirability) in Brussels, Belgium, Pennsburg, Pa., Fairfield, Conn., and Rochester, N.Y. His work has appeared in Reason Magazine, National Review Online, The Freeman Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Examiner and elsewhere. He received a bachelor's degree from Fairfield University in 2009, but he refuses to hang on his wall until his student loans are fully paid off sometime in the mid-2020s. When he steps away from the computer, he enjoys drinking craft beers in classy bars, cheering for an eclectic mix of favorite sports teams (mostly based in Philadelphia) and traveling to new places.


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