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Citizen, councilor: Smoking ban an 'overreach'

By Kendra Caruso | Sep 19, 2019
Photo by: Kendra Caruso A no smoking sign on a door at Belfast City Hall Sept. 19.

Belfast — City councilors got an earful from residents and business owners about a proposed smoking ban and a slew of other city property bans this week.

With one councilor starkly against it, the mayor in support, and a second councilor frustrated that smoking made the list but tighter loitering regulations and a ban on sexual activity did not, the issue was tabled.

The Sept. 17 meeting became heated when Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Steve Ryan — speaking as a private citizen, not in an official capacity — offered his thoughts about banning smoking on downtown sidewalks.

“I’m troubled about this overreaching new set of restrictions on life in Belfast,” Ryan said. “… I strongly feel that any new regulations must be careful to balance the pursuit of public good with the rights of our citizens.

“… We may not engage in or endorse these activities but if they’re legal, then a high bar has to be set to restrict or prohibit them.… These overreaching amendments move Belfast over the line towards being a nanny state.”

Councilor Neal Harkness was quick to defend the initiative, citing some negative impacts of allowing the activity to continue.

“I want to just flip the question, because if you allow smoking in certain areas on city property, you have not created a smoking-allowed zone,” Harkness said. “You have created a no-children-allowed zone, you’ve created a no-people-with-illnesses-allowed zone. And I’ve heard an awful lot about smokers rights and to some extent — yes, you do have a right to blow toxic fumes in peoples' faces. But they have a right to not have it blown in their face.”

Mayor Samantha Paradis reiterated her stance about it being a public health issue and mentioned her secondhand smoke sensitivity.

“I think it’s absolutely necessary to ban smoking on sidewalks and all city property,” Paradis said. “… We have an opportunity to be a leader in dedicating our decisions to the health of the larger population.… Personally, myself, I am a person that has a severe reaction to cigarette smoke. And I'm not alone. Just simply being around a person who is smoking a cigarette, I have a migraine trigger.”

Councilor Paul Dean is opposed to the idea and proposed excluding the sidewalk smoking ban from the ordinance changes.

“So, I am hoping, during this discussion, I would be making a motion to have smoking removed as it’s written into these particular ordinances,” Dean said, “…because I agree with Steve — I had it written down — I think this is government overreach.”

Dean argued the ban initially was presented as a way to reduce cigarette butt pollution in parking lots where people were loitering. He talked about tightening city loitering regulations and expressed frustration about other issues that were not carried over into the final draft proposal.

“Where this all started was with a group of people at the Bridge Street parking lot and what they were doing was loitering,” Dean said. “ … The way it’s written now, I think loitering should have been added into this list for the entire city … (Banning) sexual activity was not carried forward, but yet smoking was. So, after sexual activity, you cannot smoke in Belfast.”

Councilors Mary Mortier and Mike Hurley both were apprehensive about supporting the ban. The main concern voiced was about negative impacts on downtown businesses.

The current ordinance prohibits smoking tobacco and marijuana, and vaping, in city parks but police can write tickets only if someone violates the rule. Police Chief Mike McFadden suggested councilors add provisions to allow officers to remove those who continue smoking in city parks after being issued a ticket.

The proposal will be addressed again at a future city council meeting.

Information about nicotine addiction can be found at 1-800-207-1230.


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Comments (5)
Posted by: Eric Schrader | Sep 26, 2019 08:39

I think the entire Belfast Council, less 1, need to stop exhaling because they are spewing too much CO2, aka carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. You know, that's the greenhouse gas that plants use in photosynthesis to make Oxygen for us mortal humans. If fact, I think the entire Council and administration need to take a 3 month leave of absence every winter because the less they meet, the less bad legislation is promulgated and the more freedom from intrusive government we residents can enjoy. If it isn't the stop signs, it's the jug handle. If it isn't the dog poop, it's the parking fines. If it isn't the smoking ban, they will find something else to ban. Try addressing some real substantive issues like the egregious violation of the City Charter found at "The Blue Monster", aka the McCrum Potato refrigeration building on Front Street that has been ignored for a decade by the Council and City administration. It's becoming the latest tourist attraction to view the newest grafitti to be painted on the 8 abandoned tractor trailers among the overgrown weeds just around the corner from the exposed dumpster. It's quite a site demonstrating governmental indifference or just poor eyesight.

Posted by: William Pieske | Sep 21, 2019 17:53

I would suggest if someone has a migraine trigger from walking past somebody smoking, that individual needs to wear a mask rather than prohibit the rights of others engaging in a totally legal activity. And I am not and have never been a smoker. Just take a wider berth if you don't want to wear a mask.

Posted by: EDWIN (BUD) NESBIT | Sep 20, 2019 09:22

What incredible nonsense.  I hate the smell of cigarettes but it is outrageous that the city would even consider such an intrusion into the actions of its citizens.  Who thinks of these things?

Posted by: Mark Kuzio | Sep 19, 2019 21:44

Orwellian is the only word that comes to mind.

Posted by: Ralph Stanley | Sep 19, 2019 18:43

Overreach. The City Council. Smoking on city property. What??? The last latest on overreach was achieved by the council on the rezoning of the land surrounding the Little River. Skip the Planning Board jurisdiction over the zoning. Shove it back to the Planning Board via total control of discussion by city council and the planner. Mr. Ryan excuses himself as chairman of the Planning Board. No comment as Planning Board chairman regarding city council overreach. Another obfuscation by the city while Nordic takes the city for a bath.

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