By Kate Ramunni
HAMDEN – The smoking ban at town parks won’t be expanding – yet.
The Legislative Council on Monday tabled a proposed amendment to the smoking ban ordinance that would expand it to include all town property, including school grounds. The year-old existing ban covers only town parks.
But the amendment will be back, council President Jim Pascarella said, likely at the council’s Aug. 21 meeting.
The amendment was pulled “to clarify and tighten the language that we had some concerns over that ensures that everyone’s rights are protected,” Pascarella said.
“It will be back,” he said. “It’s not going away, this is just part of the process.”
At Mayor Curt Balzano Leng’s request, the council approved the first smoking ban at town parks in July of 2016. The mayor now wants to expand that to all town properties.
“This is a natural expansion of the park smoking ban approved last year and is proposed to ensure that locations like the Farmers Market, exterior areas such as the Keefe Center, which has a playground, and other town-owned properties are kept smoke free to promote a healthy environment for our residents,” Leng said.
“The intent of the proposal is to protect residents, and especially children, from the well documented health hazard of second hand smoke,” he said. “As a town, we have a responsibility to make our properties safe, clean and void of as many potentially harmful things within our power.”
Most who spoke Monday supported the proposal.
The areas the proposed ordinance targets are popular among athletes, students and children, said Lauren Garrett, who is running this fall for an at-large seat on the council.
The Declaration of Independence assures people the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Garrett said. “My children’s right to clean air takes precedence over your liberty to smoke and your pursuit of tobacco,” she said.
“When someone says, ‘I don’t want to breath that smoke,’ they should have the legal backing to say that, and the people who are doing that smoking in public places should be accountable for their actions,” said resident Phil Nista, who said his father died of a smoking-related illness three years ago.
There are other sacrifices society makes for the good of the people, he said, such as lower speed limits near schools. “We put liberty on hold when we drive by a school, and we are all happy to do it because we don’t want to see anything happen to kids,” he said. The same should be true when it comes to smoking in such areas, he said.
Garrett’s husband Dan said if the town is going to expand the ban, it also needs to make sure it’s enforced. Several weeks ago he was at an event at a town park where he saw people smoking within about 15 feet of a police officer, he said. “When I pointed it out to them, they did nothing,” he said. “It needs to be enforced if you are going to pass this amendment.”
Town resident Robert Kissel said he thinks the proposal goes too far.
“This is a scandalous waste of time,” he said. “There are more important issues. I think with all the hard work you do, you can lose sight of the priorities of your constituents.
“Everyone says smoking is horrible and dangerous, but many say watching television is not healthy and electrical wires can be dangerous,” he said. “There is a point at which the council has to consider leaving things to the people and not impose behavior norms to the nth degree.”