NASHUA — A panel of aldermen is supporting a proposal that would ban smoking at city parks and near city-owned buildings, but warns that enforcement could be problematic.
Alderwoman Patrica Klee, one of the sponsors of the proposed ordinance, says she has received several complaints from residents about teens and adults smoking at city playgrounds.
After hearing about a five-year-old child who found a cigarette at a local playground that was still lit, she decided to study the possibility of a smoking ban at city parks.
On Monday, the aldermanic personnel and administrative affairs committee supported her initiative and will recommend that the full Board of Aldermen adopt the ordinance.
“Cigarettes represent a fire danger. Cigarettes aren’t necessarily a good thing to have around kids in a recreation area, so I support this,” said Alderman Tom Lopez.
If approved by the full Board of Aldermen, the ordinance would fine anyone who smokes or uses e-cigarettes within city parks, or within 30-feet of entrances, exits and windows of city-owned buildings.
Klee said people have complained about having to walk through a “tunnel of smoke” before entering buildings such as Nashua City Hall and the Nashua Public Library.
The unhealthy smoke lingers, according to Klee, who said vestibules for cigarette butts can be placed away from main entrances to encourage smokers to congregate in locations that are not directly next to door entryways.
“This makes a lot of sense,” agreed Alderwoman Shoshanna Kelly, who said signs should also be placed at city parks and outside of city-owned buildings informing the public of the new ordinance — if it is ultimately approved.
“The purpose of this article is to protect the health and wellbeing of all members of the public who have occasion to attend public places and facilities and city parks by restricting the use of tobacco products and e-cigarettes as outlined herein. The city also has a significant interest in reducing incidents of littering,” states the proposal.
Alderwoman June Caron supported the initiative, but cautioned that citizens may not necessarily obey the ordinance if it is adopted.
“The police aren’t going to be in and out of the facilities constantly,” she said of the enforcement issue, adding the cost of signs could be pricey.
“We can’t put this burden on our police — they have enough to do,” replied Klee. “I am hoping that people will police themselves.”
While that may not be realistic, she is optimistic that this effort will curb some of the problem.
According to the proposal, violators would receive a $25 fine for the first offense, $50 fine for the second offense and $100 fine for the third offense and subsequent offenses.