CHESHIRE — Tobacco use in public parks and on school grounds could be banned if a proposed ordinance is approved by the Town Council.
Last week, the council voted unanimously to hold a public hearing on the prohibition, but hasn’t set a date.
About six months ago, the Parks Commission recommended the prohibition of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, electronic cigarettes, vapor devices, chewing tobacco and snuff at all parks and on school grounds.
Smokers who ignore the ban could get a fine of up to $90, according to the proposed ordinance.
The ordinance also calls for signs notifying residents of “tobacco-free zones” and informing them of the statute number and the penalty.
Jim Nankin, chairman of the Parks Commission, said the smoking ban was an idea “whose time had come.”
“If you look around at our neighboring towns, you’ll see more and more of them do this already,” Nankin said. “It doesn’t make any sense not to do it.”
Nankin, who quit cigarettes several years ago, said he is concerned about government interference in people’s lives. In this case though, he believes a smoking prohibition in town parks will make them more enjoyable for the non-smokers who use them. Particularly during large events such as the Fall Festival or concerts, smokers can annoy others with their activity.
There’s been little opposition, Nankin said, which he credited with the significant drop in the number of smokers.
“I don’t think we could have done this 10 years ago,” he said.
Cheshire park users interviewed Wednesday were supportive of a ban on smoking in the parks, saying they disliked the smell.
“Definitely ban smoking. Ban smoking all around,” said Justino Santos. He was at Cheshire’s Farmington Canal Heritage Trail with his wife who said it would make the parks more enjoyable but said a ban did seem “a little harsh.”
Rob Oris, Town Council chairman, said he’s looking forward to hearing from the public on the issue.
He understands the motives behind the ordinance to promote health, prevent fires and keep smoke away from non-smokers but said he’s concerned about enforcement and interfering with people’s lives.
“I have mixed feelings about it,” Oris said. “It seems like every little thing nowadays we want to regulate.”
Park users might help enforce the ban but catching every violator might be difficult.
“I’m not sure how you enforce something like this,” he said. “You’re not going to have the tobacco police out there.”
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