Enfield to Post Voluntary No-Smoking Signs

Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Enfield — Residents and officials in Enfield are calling for a prohibition on smoking in town parks; they contend it’s a nuisance and sets the wrong example for children.

But others are pushing back, arguing that residents should be allowed to police themselves without the town intervening.

Public parks, they argue, should also be open for everyone, and that includes smokers.

“Several people have spoken to me about their concerns that children playing sports at the Shaker Rec Fields had adults smoking around them,” said Selectboard member Meredith Smith on Monday.

Parents worried second-hand smoke hovering around the playing fields, Smith said, and some expressed frustration that allowing smoking at youth events sends the wrong message about health.

“Why do we continue to support it on town-owned property?” she asked.

Smith brought the concerns to her fellow Selectboard members last week, but the board was unable to reach a consensus on how to best tackle the issue.

Town Manager Ryan Aylesworth said he will research signs that discourage smoking as a first step, rather than drawing up a new ordinance.

The signs would read something akin to “consider others before smoking in this area” and potentially be placed at Huse Memorial Park and the Shaker Rec Fields, he said.

“I think, especially when talking about events that invite kids, parents are often the better policers of (smoking) anyway,” Aylesworth said on Monday, adding that parents are most likely to ask smokers to either leave or step away from their children.

There were several concerns about establishing a policy banning smoking, he said, including whether an ordinance would overburden police or could be challenged legally.

“Everybody seemed to agree that one person’s liberty should not impact another person’s liberty,” Aylesworth said.

Other Selectboard members appeared content with Aylesworth’s approach.

“I’m not downplaying anybody’s opinion at all, and I’m respectful of Meredith (Smith) for bringing the issue up,” Selectboard Chairman Fred Cummings said on Monday. “But on a personal level, if I have an issue with somebody smoking around me, I’m going to tell that I don’t like it and ask them to move.”

Cummings also expressed his feelings on the matter in a post to Enfield’s listserv.

“While smoking does indeed cause health problems, this isn’t the forum to argue about it, nor is it anything new,” Cummings wrote. “I too grew up in a house with smokers and smoked myself. I know what it can do.”

Instead of a townwide policy, he urged people to ask smokers politely to relocated when necessary. People, Cummings wrote, are actually quire considerate.

“Either way, whether you smoke or not, you all pay taxes. Your taxes pay for these parks and fields,” he wrote. “Picking one side or the other, as a selectman, in my opinion is wrong.”

Smith said she’s not giving up on the issue.

“A first step is better than no step,” she said, adding she ultimately hopes to see a ban at the playing fields.

The town does have a couple of smoke-free locations. Smoking is banned at Shakoma Beach, as well as on Enfield Village School property.

If Enfield were to eventually adopt a no-smoking ordinance, the town would join Newport, Claremont and Lebanon in recently limiting smoking on municipal property.

Lebanon’s ordinance took effect on July 1, and prohibits smoking, chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes in about a dozen public spaces ranging from the city pool to steps outside of libraries.

As a part of the ordinance, the city designated several smoking areas, including areas most heavily trafficked by smokers. Signs were also installed informing people of the ordinance and directing people to the designated areas.

The Lebanon City Council adopted fines related to the ordinance. Violators could face a $25 fine for a first offense, $50 for second and $100 for subsequent offenses.

However, Police Chief Richard Mello said on Monday that warnings have been effective, and added that he is not aware of a single citation being issued since the ordinance was enacted.

“I think things have gone pretty well,” Mello said. “People kind of self regulate and are using the areas prescribed by the city for smoking.”

Lebanon’s ordinance was OK’d by municipal attorneys before it was approved.

Back in Enfield, several residents have thrown their support behind Smith’s idea, including Sheila Young, the Willow Grove director at the Second Wind Founcation, a White River Junction-based addiction recovery center.

Both of Young’s adult children have asthma, which she believes was the result of her smoking when they were children. Young, who quite smoking seven years ago, also lost family members to illnesses related to second-hand smoke.

“I simply think that it’s the right thing to do for our children,” she said of a smoking ban on Monday. “They don’t get to choose where they are and if people are smoking around them, that’s not good for them.”

Enfield resident Tim Lenihan also lent his support to an ordinance curbing smoking in public spaces, saying he might circulate a petition to gauge public opinion on the matter.

Fall sports traditionally bring a lot of activity to Enfield’s playing fields, but it’s also brought a lot of smokers, said Lenihan, who coaches his children’s teams.

“You make a rule, you put up a sign and most people are going to follow the rules,” he said. “It’s OK to say we’re not going to do this in a public park.”

Aylesworth, the town manager, said he intends to inform the Selectboard of his progress posting the voluntary no-smoking signs at their next meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday in the Public Works Facility at 74 Lockehaven Road.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.