2015-07-09 / Front Page

Council Bans Smoking on Beaches, in Parks

By James Merolla

They find hundreds of thousands of cigarette butts in the sand, in the water, in the bellies of fish, birds and shellfish. Their toxins never completely break down.

If public pressure can be maintained, they will become as rare on the beach as a piping plover.

Saying it will make Middletown a better place to live and recreate, the Town Council voted 6-1 Monday night to ban smoking (and vaping) on public beaches, recreational areas and parks, joining a regional trend (see sidebar). The meeting was lightly attended, there was no public discussion, and the only opposition to the ban came from Council Member Antone Viveiros who voted against it, due to the wording of its language primarily.

Temporary signs, alerting the public of the prohibition of tobacco and e-cigarettes at Sachuest and Third beaches, as well as other town-owned land, were put up this week. The signs signal community policing and public maintenance, rather than strict police enforcement of the new ban.

“I’ve talked with the police chief and there’s no intention to have a smoking patrol,” Town Administrator Shawn J. Brown told the council.

The self-policing ordinance, guided by signage will be the first step. If the ban cannot be maintained that way, police may be called in the future.

Town Solicitor Peter B. Regan said that the town campground was not on the list of public places because people have already signed lease agreements through summer with the town and such changes would alter existing contracts.

Council member Viveiros, in voting against the ordinance, said he would have rather have relied on public courtesy and common sense than an outright ban. He also questioned language in the resolution to that may not be accurate, leading to “unintentional consequences.”

Viveiros questioned the integrity of an EPA report of 15 years ago, citing an extensive medical journal investigation that did not support fully that cancer may be caused by second hand smoke.

He said a federal judge vacated the EPA study, declaring it null and void. He suggested the wording be changed, eliminating he secondhand smoke reference and stating that the ban is in place because it is a “nuisance,” and “does not set a good example for our children.”

He made a motion for these changes but no other council member would second it, so his motion failed.

Viveiros also asked publicly what would happen should someone with a legal prescription for medical marijuana would light up on the beaches.

Regan said that smoking marijuana is not allowed at any public or recreational areas. “No, they don’t have a right to smoke marijuana in public, whether they have a prescription or not,” said Regan.

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