A at New London parks, beaches, and within 30 feet of the entrances to municipal buildings earned support from some representatives of health and wellness organizations on Monday.
ACHIEVE New London, an organization promoting improved health in the city, and the New London Community and Campus Coalition, whose goal is to prevent which substance abuse among the city’s youth, are spearheading the effort. The groups say several Connecticut towns have already banned smoking in parks, including Groton, Montville, and Norwich.
Bruce Cummings, chief executive officer of , told the Public Welfare Committee that smoking is a major contributor to heart disease. He said the hospital recently implemented its own no smoking policy at the hospital campus.
“I think this would be another step forward in contributing to the health of the city of New London’s residents,” he said.
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Nancy Baude, a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission, said smoking can also lead to the problem of cigarette butt litter. She said toddlers can pick these up and put them in their mouths if they find them at the park or beach.
“People don’t realize, they think it’s a harmless thing. It’s not harmless,” said Baude.
Keith Robbins opposed the ban, saying he think it will make smokers less likely to visit businesses and sites in New London. Robbins said he has smoked cigars while visiting parks, but does so away from other people. He also said he considers that no legislation will effectively eliminate litter issues and that it was “ludicrous” that the city was considering a ban on smoking in outdoor areas.
“Smoke outside is easily avoidable,” he said.
Tony Mollica, community coordinator for the New London Community and Campus Coalition, disagreed. Mollica said it is not easy for people to avoid interaction with cigarette smoke if someone is smoking in a public place.
“You can be at a park or a playground, and you can smell that smoke from 50 yards away,” he said. “It’s not something you can just move away from.”
Councilor Anthony Nolan said he supported having the full City Council vote on the proposal. He said he would be willing to consider having designated smoking areas at these sites, but said he was also concerned with the issues raised by the groups.
“The majority of the smokers I have run into are not as courteous as you are,” he told Robbins.
Council President Pro Tempore Wade Hyslop said the city has passed several ordinances that are not enforced. He also said smoking is already banned within municipal buildings and that this could potentially be extended to areas around entrances.
“I think one of the things we often try to do is legislate people’s morals…I know we mean well when we do that, but sometimes we infringe upon others,” said Hyslop.
The Parks and Recreation Commission recommended a no smoking policy for New London parks in September of 2010. The measure before the City Council’s Education, Parks and Recreation Committee last year, with opponents saying they felt the measure compromise personal liberties.
Councilor Marie Friess-McSparran, chair of the committee, said the organizations presented the Montville ordinance as a model. She said she will work on drafting an ordinance for the committee to consider.