Sunday, May 19, 2013
PORTLAND - The city is considering a sweeping ban on outdoor smoking that would include the city's parks and many of its open spaces and squares, sharply limiting where smokers can light up outdoors.
Jay Young of Westbrook opposes a ban on smoking in Deering Oaks and other Portland public areas. He says it’s already difficult to find places where he can smoke. “Where else do you have left? You’ve got out here.”
John Patriquin/Staff Photographer
Alex Bailey of Portland says she smokes in Deering Oaks, and thinks parks should accommodate a wide range of people, including smokers.
John Patriquin/Staff Photographer
WHERE SMOKERS COULDN'T LIGHT UP
THE PROPOSAL to prohibit smoking in Portland’s public spaces would include these parks and possibly other areas:
Back Cove Trail, Baxter Boulevard
Deering Oaks, parking lot on State Street, and along Park Avenue and Expo parking area
Payson Park, between Ocean Avenue and Baxter Boulevard
Baxter Woods, parking along Stevens and Forest avenues
Baxter (Deering) Pines, access from Ludlow and Leland streets; corner of Mabel Street
Capisic Pond Park, access from Macy Street off Capisic Street and Lucas Street off Brighton
Evergreen Cemetery Woodlands, at the back of Evergreen Cemetery on Stevens Avenue
Fore River Park, Hobart Street at Congress Street
Oatnuts Park, Summit Street
Wooded area behind Portland Arts & Technology School, Allen Avenue
Pine Grove Park, Ray Street between Virginia and Nevada streets
Presumpscot River Preserve, Overset Road off Curtis Road and via Oatnuts Park Trail 40
Riverton Trolley Park, corner of Riverside Street and Forest Avenue
University Park, off Allen Avenue at Yale Street, or at end of Harvard from Washington Avenue
IN-TOWN NEIGHBORHOOD PARKS
Fort Allen Park, Eastern Promenade
Fort Sumner Park, North Street
Harbor View Memorial Park, York and Brackett streets and Tyng and Tate streets
Heseltine Park, Ocean Avenue and Irving Street
Lincoln Park, Congress, Pearl and Federal streets
Post Office Park, Spring Street, between Exchange and Market streets
Tommy’s Park, corner of Spring and Exchange streets
GREATER PORTLAND NEIGHBORHOOD PARKS
Bedford Park, Deering Avenue at Bedford Street, near USM
Belmeade Park, Baxter Boulevard and Belmeade Road
Barrows Park and Baxter Sundial, Baxter Boulevard at Vannah Avenue
Fessenden Park, corner of Deering and Brighton avenues near USM
Longfellow Park, Longfellow and Oakdale streets/Noyes Street
Nason’s Corner, near Breakwater School, Capisic and Albion streets
Quaker Park, Forest Avenue at Riverside Industrial Parkway
Stroudwater Park, intersection of Congress and Waldo streets
Stroudwater Park 2, corner of Congress and Westbrook streets
Trinity Park, Forest Avenue at Coyle Street
Winslow Park, Baxter Boulevard at Preble Street Extension
Fort Gorges, Casco Bay
OFF LEASH DOG PARKS
Quarry Run Dog Park, 1026 Ocean Ave. at Presumpscot Street
Valley Street Dog Park, Valley Street
Source: City of Portland website
The proposal is currently in limbo because the city lacks a formal definition of "open space." But the chair of the City Council committee that has drawn up the ban said that issue will be surmounted later this month and the proposal is expected to go before the full council in October.
Smokers say they are rapidly running out of spaces where they can smoke, but proponents of the ban said the health effects of secondhand smoke are so great that it makes sense to constrain where smoking is allowed.
Jay Young said he's a good example of someone with limited options for where to smoke. His apartment in Westbrook is in a smoke-free building. Most of the places he goes are public buildings where smoking is not allowed. And almost all the bars and restaurants in the state are smoke-free.
So his opinion on a proposal to ban smoking in city-owned parks and open spaces in Portland is not surprising.
"I think that sucks," he said of the proposed ban while bicycling -- and smoking -- in Deering Oaks. "Where else do you have left? You've got out here."
The proposal was expected to be taken up by the Portland City Council on Wednesday but was instead referred back to the Public Safety Committee because of the definition problem.
But once that detail is settled, committee chairman Ed Suslovic said the city's direction is clear.
"I feel like the city has already said that the right to breathe clean air trumps smokers' rights," Suslovic said. "In the public opinion battle, the smokers are not winning."
Portland is far from alone in seeking to control where smoking is allowed, both indoors and out.
Most states have laws banning smoking in public buildings and 625 communities have laws banning smoking in parks.
"It's certainly a growing trend," said Cynthia Howard, executive director of Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, which advocates for tougher laws on where smokers can light up.
Howard said Arcata, Calif., was the first community to limit outdoor smoking by banning it in a city plaza in 1997. Within years, other towns and cities did likewise, with New York City adopting a ban in parks and "pedestrian plazas," such as Times Square.
Howard said the bans show that limiting the health risks from secondhand smoke is paramount.
"There is no constitutional right to smoke," she said. "There is no protected class in terms of people who smoke."
Portland already prohibits smoking in most places, including within 25 feet of playgrounds, beaches or athletic fields. The state also prohibits smoking in most areas of state parks and on state beaches.
Howard noted that her organization is launching a campaign to create smoke-free campuses at colleges around the country -- and last week, the University of Southern Maine's new president, Theodora Kalikow, said that college will be tobacco-free by Jan. 1.
Nonsmokers in Portland seem to be generally in favor of either banning people from smoking in parks or restricting where they can smoke in a park.
Mollyrae Bock of Portland said she favors a ban, partly to maintain the clean air and partly to reduce the litter of cigarette butts.
She said that even walking outside with someone who's smoking leaves one smelling like cigarette smoke, adding "and that's not attractive," while shooting a glance at her friend Kaitlen MacDonald, a smoker, as the two strolled through Deering Oaks.
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