BIDDEFORD – Smoking may soon be banned on the city’s beaches and in its public parks.

The city’s Recreation Commission proposed the ban, which is expected to be considered by councilors next week.

It would add beaches and public parks to the city’s “tobacco-free zones,” which currently include city-owned playgrounds and sports fields.

“My goal is just to create a healthier space for people to be in,” said Joe McKenney, a member of the Recreation Commission.

“It’s the right time to try to make this happen.”

When the city’s current ordinance was proposed, it included beaches and parks, McKenney said.

It was amended just before being approved in 2009 to include only city-owned playgrounds and sports fields.

Council President Bob Mills said he was “adamantly opposed” to the ordinance when it was proposed four years ago. “I’m a smoker myself and I saw it as being intrusive and very challenging to enforce,” he said.

Now that he’s seen how the ordinance is working, he’s changed his mind. Mills said people respect the “tobacco-free zone” signs posted in playgrounds and at sports fields.

“When they see the sign, they say, ‘Oh, I can’t smoke here,’” he said.

During an Oct. 3 policy committee meeting, Recreation Director Carl Walsh agreed.

“What we’ve had in place, people have been respecting that,” he said.

If approved, the city would join Portland, York, Ogunquit, Scarborough and South Portland in banning smoking on beaches.

Old Orchard Beach town councilors also voted recently to draft a resolution, rather than an ordinance, to encourage people not to smoke on Maine’s largest, busiest beach.

The ban also follows a statewide law enacted two years ago prohibiting smoking at state-owned beaches, parks and historic sites.

The Recreation Commission presented a packet of materials containing research regarding secondhand smoke, litter from smoking and feedback from lifeguards stationed at Rotary Park Beach throughout the summer.

Lifeguards received frequent complaints about secondhand smoke and cigarette butts scattered on the beach.

They also witnessed a confrontation between a woman who asked a few people smoking near her children to move. She ultimately moved instead.

“If this passed, the lifeguards can go up and approach (people smoking on the beach) and say, ‘Are you aware there’s no smoking on the beach?’,” giving lifeguards the authority to stop people smoking around children, Walsh said during the committee meeting.

City councilors are also expected to consider banning the sale and use of fireworks.

The proposed ordinance is copied from Portland, which recently voted to ban the sale and use of fireworks within the city. A number of other communities are considering ordinances in response to the state law legalizing the sale and use of certain fireworks, which goes into effect Jan. 1.

The City Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: [email protected]