From summer 2019, smoking will be banned all over the beach in the Veneto seaside resort. Smokers will be provided with special areas made with wood from certified forests.
Bibione is saying goodbye to cigarettes on the sand: from summer 2019, it will be the first Italian beach to offer tourists unadulterated, completely smoke-free sea air. After a number of trials and initiatives in recent years, especially as part of the “Breathe the Sea Air” project, the beach resort – which has some of the highest visitor numbers in Italy – has underlined its status as a cutting-edge tourist destination that respects the health of both people and the environment. From the 2019 season, smoking will be banned all along Bibione’s 8 km beach. The measures will be established by the end of May by a special town council ordinance and the new system will be promoted by a dedicated campaign.
“Rather than introducing a ban, we’re interested in giving the people who choose to spend their holidays here the chance to breathe the clean sea air without having to put up with polluting substances that are harmful to health,” explained Pasqualino Codognotto, the mayor of San Michele al Tagliamento-Bibione. “It is also a way of working alongside our guests to promote a culture based on respect and we are confident that both non-smokers and smokers will seize the opportunity that it presents. The initiative also has the backing of all of the members of the local tourist industry. It is another contributing factor in Bibione’s growing reputation as a first-rate destination when it comes to health and the environment.”
The plans for implementing the smoking ban will include setting up specially equipped smoking areas with clear boundaries. They will be built using certified wood under the “Filiera Solidale” initiative launched by PEFC Italy following the floods that devastated the Alpine forests in North-East Italy in October 2018. Thanks to the large size of Bibione beach, there will be plenty of space for comfortable smoking areas in the shade for those who do not want to give up the habit. Smoking will also be permitted in the beach kiosks.
Step by step over eight years towards the first smoke-free Italian beach
With this decisive new step, Bibione has completed a process that began eight years ago with its first initiatives to curb smoking on the beach. The Veneto resort was the first to pave the way towards a “smoke-free” beach back in 2011, when it banned smoking on the shoreline, in the area from the first row of umbrellas to the edge of the water. This bold decision was backed by tourists: when they were asked to share their views on the smoking ban, the majority voiced their approval. Of the 2,293 people surveyed during the trial, 1,729 were in favour of the ban (1,145 gave their full support and 584 approved as long as designated smoking areas were provided), while only 564 people were against it. As part of the “Breathe the sea air” project, over the last few years Bibione has carried out numerous international media campaigns to inform people and raise awareness of the risks of passive smoking and the importance of protecting the natural landscape and the shore and lagoon habitat from cigarette butts. To give you an idea of the impact that smoking on the beach can have, just think that between 2014 and 2018 the shoreline smoking ban in Bibione led to the collection of no fewer than 550,000 cigarette butts that would otherwise have ended up in the sea or the sand. It is worthwhile noting that cigarettes can take more than 10 years to decompose due to the type of plastic used in the filters.
“Providing protection for health and the priceless natural heritage all around us is a top priority,” stated the President of Bibione Live tourism promotion association. “Bibione is hugely popular with children, sports enthusiasts and all those who love life in the open air. In addition, we firmly believe that the evidence provided by scientific data leads to significant decisions and we have great confidence in our guests.”
Passive smoking on the beach is comparable to traffic pollution in a busy area
The Italian resort’s dedication to promoting clean air on the beach is backed by specific scientific data. In 2015, research was carried out by a working group led by Dr Roberto Boffi, the Head of Respiratory Medicine and the Stop Smoking Centre at the Italian National Tumour Institute in Milan. It showed that passive smoking on beaches has a far from negligible effect: at a distance of approximately 10 metres from smokers, with an average wind speed of 2.7 metres per second, there are very high peaks of pollution (250 micrograms/m³). Although they only last a few seconds, these peaks are one or two orders of magnitude greater than not only the base level for the beach, but also the level produced by the traffic at the roundabout at the entrance to the resort, which is a very busy area. The average black carbon concentration (a measurement of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, many of which are toxic and carcinogenic), from when a cigarette was lit until it was put out was 7.4 micrograms/m³, compared to 2.1 micrograms/m³ at the roundabout and 1.8 micrograms/m³ for the beach in general. Consequently, in recent years the “Breathe the sea air” project has won the backing of the World Health Organization (WHO), the Italian Ministry of Health, the Veneto Regional Authorities, the ULSS 4 Eastern Veneto health authority and the Italian National Tumour Institute.
“This project by Bibione shows that there are no excuses when it comes to health,” underlined Dr Boffi. “For instance, take the Italian ‘Sirchia’ law that banned smoking in public places. People were initially very worried about its impact, but it subsequently set the benchmark on a global scale. Therefore I applaud Bibione’s initiative. My team and I have worked with the resort to show that passive smoking on beaches can genuinely be extremely harmful. Bibione is a tourist destination that strives to protect the health of its guests and its local environment. It is breaking important new ground with this scheme and I hope that other beaches will follow its example soon.”