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July 10, 2023
2 min to read

Police Punch and Arrest Another Vaper on Ocean City Boardwalk

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Jim McDonald

Two years after Ocean City, Maryland, police beat, tasered and arrested four black teenagers for vaping on the city’s famous boardwalk, a Washington, D.C. man had a similar confrontation with Ocean City police last week for the same reason.

Ocean City prohibits smoking and vaping on the beach and boardwalk. When the law banning public vaping was passed in 2015, City Manager David Recor assured the public that violent confrontations with police wouldn’t happen.

On July 5, Denzel Elam Ruff, a 34-year-old golf coach, was approached by police on the boardwalk and told to stop vaping. Police say he refused the order and “intentionally smoked his vape.” He then resisted arrest, according to the police.

Cell phone video of the confrontation shows three police officers struggling to handcuff Ruff, then throwing him to the ground and pinning him. One officer is seen punching him in the head while he is restrained. Ruff was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, resisting/interfering with an arrest, second-degree assault, and failure to provide proof of identification, according to TV station WUSA9.

This is how Ocean City police handled a vaping violation on the boardwalk July 6, 2023! This is disgusting and terrifying! Don’t let it go unseen. #OceanCityMaryland #OceanCityPolice #OceanCityboardwalk #justice #PoliceBrutality

— karsyn bennett (@karsynbennett4) July 7, 2023

“Our officers are permitted to use force, per their training, to overcome exhibited resistance,” the Ocean City Police Department later said in a statement. “All uses of force go through a detailed review process.”

The department found no wrongdoing by officers in its review of the 2021 incident, during which one teenaged vaper was tackled and repeatedly kneed in the ribs, and another was shot with a taser while his hands were raised above his head. Both were also charged with resisting arrest and other crimes.

Since the moral panic over vaping intensified in 2018 and increased public fear of the practice, there have been multiple incidents of violence against vapers, many involving police and school officials. With flavored vape bans spreading and the FDA planning to outlaw menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, opportunities for Drug War-style enforcement leading to violent confrontations between nicotine users and police will increase further.

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Jim McDonald

Vaping since: 12 years

Favorite products:

Favorite flavors: RY4-style tobaccos, fruits

Expertise in: Political and legal challenges, tobacco control haters, moral panics

Jim McDonald

Smokers created vaping without help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and I believe vapers have the right to continue innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I’m a member of the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy

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