The City Council voted 6-1 on Tuesday to enact an anti-smoking ordinance for New London’s parks, although the decision does not ban smoking outright and exempts several areas.
The approved document made significant cuts to the , chair of the Public Welfare Committee. In a meeting prior to the City Council vote, the committee removed a section on forbidding smoking within 30 feet of the entrances of municipal buildings, restricted smoking to “designated smoking areas” in parks, and exempted beach and waterfront sites from the rules.
The ban in parks and around municipal entrances was by ACHIEVE New London and the New London Community and Campus Coalition, organizations that promote healthy behaviors and the prevention of substance abuse in youth. The organizations said the ordinance would get rid of the danger of secondhand smoke in the parks, eliminate cigarette litter, and send a message that the city cares about the health of its residents.
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Committee members and councilors previously expressed concerns about a number of issues, including whether the 30-foot zone around city entrances would infringe on neighboring properties. A stipulation preventing the use of chewing tobacco was removed. Councilor Anthony Nolan said he thought designated smoking zones should go into effect to prevent smoking near recreational areas and other places frequented by children, with the possibility of expanded “no smoking” areas or a full-scale ban at a later date.
The committee voted to strengthen a section of the ordinance on no smoking signs, requiring the to put the signs up instead of recommending it. The signs will let visitors know about the ordinance as well as the $49 fine for each violation.
“If it’s not posted, then they’re not aware of what they’re being handed a ticket for,” said Council President Pro Tempore Wade Hyslop.
The committee also asked David Sugrue, general manager of , if he had an opinion on a smoking ban. Sugrue said he is not in favor of smoking at the beach but that he would not want to alienate visitors. Hyslop said visitors could also be discouraged if a smoking area at the beach was established too far from the shore. When he asked Sugrue if he thought a smoking ban was a good idea, Sugrue replied, “Not at this time, no.”
The response prompted Nolan to amend the ordinance to remove beach properties from the ordinance’s stipulation for the time being. These include Green’s Harbor Beach, Ocean Beach Park, , and .
The amendment led to a heated dispute between Nolan and Councilor John Maynard, the ordinance’s sole opponent, when the ordinance went before the full council. Maynard questioned why the ordinance would not apply to Green’s Harbor Beach but would apply to nearby , saying more children visit the beach.
“If we’re going to eliminate anything it should be the beach and not the park,” he said.
Nolan said the decision stemmed from the idea that people would be allowed to walk and smoke along the beach and invited Maynard to make an amendment regarding Green’s Harbor Beach and Green Harbor Park. Maynard took offense when Nolan asked him to specify the beach and park in this amendment.
“What were we just discussing? Are you that slow?” asked Maynard.
Maynard later apologized for the remark.
“That didn’t come out the way I intended,” he said. “I know you’re not slow. I know you’re very intelligent.”
Councilor Don Macrino said he thought the ordinance would be “impossible to enforce.” However, he considered that it may help to curtail smoking when children are present in the parks.
Opponents have said the ordinance would be difficult to enforce and infringe on personal liberties. The Parks and Recreation Commission supported a smoking ban for city parks in 2010, but the measure in the Education, Parks and Recreation Committee.
The ordinance goes into effect in 90 days.