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Aldermen to consider smoking ban for public parks in response to spice use increase

By PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader

August 10. 2017 10:40PM
Young people hang out at Bronstein Park in Manchester. The city is considering banning smoking in public parks. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER FILE)



MANCHESTER — Aldermen are scheduled to discuss an ordinance that would ban smoking in public parks in Manchester, drafted in response to a recent spike in the use of spice.

The draft ordinance appears on the agenda for the next meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, scheduled for Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chambers at City Hall.

Aldermen will discuss amending the city’s ordinance code by adding in new language under Section 96.06 Behavior, which governs behavior in public parks. The section would now read, “No person in a park shall do any of the following: (H) Smoke. Smoke any tobacco, tobacco-related product, filter or other plant or weed except in such areas as specifically designated for smoking by the Public Works Director, or his or her designee, subject to the provisions of state law and review by the Health Department. The Commission may prescribe such terms and conditions as it deems appropriate to the designated area or areas.”

Fines or penalties for violating the new ordinance have yet to be determined.

The new ordinance was drawn up after Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard expressed concerns to Mayor Ted Gatsas over the rise in the number of spice (synthetic marijuana) overdoses in the Queen City in the last three months. According to statistics released by Chris Hickey, emergency medical services officer and paramedic for the Manchester Fire Department, there were two reported spice overdoses in May, then six in June, and 21 in July.

“Chief Willard approached me with the idea for a ban on smoking in public parks,” said Gatsas. “The community groups we’ve heard from support the ban. This gives Chief Willard and his department another tool to combat spice use in the city of Manchester.”

The ban was first discussed during the board’s July meeting. Alderman At Large Joseph Kelly Levasseur expressed concerns that groups such as the ACLU would oppose it.

“My civil liberties portion of me comes running out when I hear stuff like this. You don’t want them smoking in bars, you don’t want them smoking in cars, you don’t want them smoking in homes because it affects the health of children,” said Levasseur, who characterized himself as “probably the biggest anti-smoker on the planet.”

“I look at this — and I told chief I’d back him on everything, and I’ll probably back him on this — but I see the ACLU just coming right up against us and slapping us upside the head, and being 100 percent against this. My biggest concern is what we’re going to do to enforce it.”

Police Chief Nick Willard said such bans are not unusual in cities around the U.S.

“I’m a liberty-loving guy myself, actually,” said Willard. “But I believe it has withstood some constitutional challenges.”

pfeely@unionleader.com


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