A proposed ordinance remains in the Public Welfare Committee of the City Council after members tied in a Monday vote to move the item to the full council.
Councilor Marie Friess-McSparran, chair of the committee, was in favor of sending the ordinance to the full council while Council President Pro Tempore Wade Hyslop was opposed. The committee’s third member, Councilor Anthony Nolan, was absent due to a work-related injury.
The ordinance drafted by Friess-McSparran would bar the use of cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and other tobacco products in parks. It would also forbid smoking within 30 feet of the entrances or exits of municipal buildings. The ordinance would go into effect 90 days after passage, and each violation would result in a $49 fine.
The ordinance declares that the purpose of the regulation is to prevent the exposure of non-smokers to secondhand smoke and to avoid the “contradictory message” of exposing youth to tobacco products in areas meant to promote public health. The stipulation against chewing tobacco says it aims to prevent the spitting of tobacco and the exposure of people to “bacteria and viruses of a variety of respiratory illnesses.”
Hyslop said he had some concerns about how and are included in the ordinance's list of parks, questioning whether the has authority over those areas. He also said several city ordinances go unenforced and questioned why the document excludes school grounds from the parks definition.
“If you’re talking about increasing the quality of life for our young people, why are we not including school grounds?” Hyslop asked.
Friess-McSparran said she thinks park visitors could help enforce the ordinance by informing any visitors using tobacco that the activity is not allowed. The ordinance also suggests that the Recreation Department could put up signs at parks declaring them to be tobacco free zones.
“I think that it’s a start,” she said.
Councilor Adam Sprecace said he would support the ordinance if it applied to smoking only, suggesting it would be best to proceed gradually. He said he also hoped to see a clearer definition on distances from municipal entrances and exits to ensure that these do not extend the zone to properties not owned by the city.
Friess-McSparran said she modeled the ordinance on a similar one passed in Montville. She said the chewing tobacco provision could be removed, and that she will bring the ordinance back to the table when she schedules another meeting that Nolan is able to attend.