June 13, 2013

Maine smoking bans a drag, or a breath of fresh air?

Smokers are feeling squeezed by Portland's new law adding outdoor spots to the list of secondhand-smoke-free zones.


This story was originally published June 10, 2013.

PORTLAND — At least smokers entering Portland’s city limits can still light up at the cemetery.

Evergreen Cemetery is one of the few designated public places where people can smoke a cigarette.

But finding other public places where it’s legal to smoke is rapidly becoming more difficult, as a new city ordinance – combined with state laws and company and university policies – has created a laundry list of places where it’s illegal to drag on a cigarette.   

Portland is far from the only community where outdoor smoking is limited. South Portland, West-brook and Gorham also ban smoking in public parks, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. Thirteen cities and towns in Maine and more than 800 municipalities across the United States have similar laws on the books, according to the foundation’s website.

Some say the new outdoor smoking restrictions go too far in inhibiting a legal activity, while proponents tout the health benefits of limiting smoking.

After the city approved the new restrictions last winter, Portland city workers are currently installing 90 “no smoking” signs in various parts of the city where smoking is now illegal, including most public parks and public squares. Two cadets working for the police department, as part of their duties, tell people to stop smoking in no-smoking areas. Those who flout the warnings face a $50 fine.

Cadet Ben Savage, patrolling Monument Square on Friday, said that enforcement is going well, and most people are heeding the new rules.

"People are just saying, 'Oh, I didn’t know that.' And a lot of (nonsmokers) have thanked me because they don’t like breathing the smoke," Savage said.

To avoid a lecture or a potential fine, smokers now have to ponder where they are standing before lighting up.

Here is a list of outdoor no-smoking areas in Portland:

Most public parks.

East End Beach.   

Public squares, including Monument and Longfellow squares.   

Within 20 feet of a trail, park, playground or athletic facility.   

Outdoor cafes, and within 20 feet of outdoor cafes and business doorways.

On any Maine Medical Center property.

At the University of Southern Maine campuses.

More than 780 college campuses across the United States are 100 percent tobacco-free, according to the nonsmokers’ rights foundation.  

"It’s gone too far," said Rose Dawson, who was smoking a cigarette near Monument Square on Friday. “People are getting a little aggravated.”

“It’s a little ridiculous,” said Jordana Avital, a sophomore at USM who led an unsuccessful protest against a smoke-free campus. The USM campuses in Portland and Gorham went smoke-free in January.

(Continued on page 2)

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