SCARBOROUGH — Many residents and beach users came out on a rainy Wednesday night to attend a public hearing on whether the town should ban smoking and tobacco use on its public beaches.
All but one speaker were in favor of the ban, many citing the effects of second-hand smoke and litter from cigarette butts as the reason for their support of the ordinance.
“My family feels pretty strongly against smoking on the beach,” resident Jim Brady said. “We really enjoy the beaches and would be much happier if we could enjoy it more healthily.”
Resident Tom Ranello spoke about his daughter’s asthma.
“Having to worry about Emma’s asthma because of someone’s addiction to cigarettes doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.
Resident Tom Schneller was the only person to speak against the amendment.
“I’m a smoker. I’m sorry. I know we’re the worst people in the world,” Schneller said. “I’m also a surf fisherman. I spend a ton of hours down on the beaches of Maine.”
He said if the ordinance passed, he would no longer be able to enjoy the town’s beaches.
The ordinance amendment — which would ban use of all tobacco products, including snuff, dip and chewing tobacco, cigarettes, cigars and pipes within 25 feet of town beaches except in designated smoking areas — comes after several citizens asked the Ordinance Committee to consider a ban to help deal with exposure to second-hand smoke and cigarette butts left on beaches.
Smoking is already banned at all Maine state parks, including Scarborough Beach. The new ordinance would include Higgins, Pine Point and Ferry beaches.
Several doctors, as well as representatives from public health agencies spoke during the hearing.
“As someone who works in public health, I can all think of changes that have helped make tremendous strides in this country,” said Lisa Letourneau, a resident and executive director of Maine Quality Counts. “We know those changes make a profound impact.”
The Healthy Maine Partnership offered to supply the town with signs as well as a public education campaign free of charge.
Sharman Kivatisky, who initially asked the council to consider an ordinance in September, 2010, said she was surprised by the outpouring of support.
“I can’t believe it’s mushroomed to this extent,” she said. “I lived on Higgins Beach for nine years and walked the beach every day. I would participate in the beach cleanups. The number one debris is always cigarettes.”
After the meeting, several councilors said they would support the amendment.
“Enforcement is going to be the issue,” Council Chairwoman Judy Roy said. “But with some signage, I think (the amendment) has a lot of things going for it.”
Councilor Jessica Holbrook said she would prefer the council start with resolution, rather than an ordinance amendment and that she did not support banning all tobacco products, just tobacco products that are smoked.
“Providing the designated smoking areas is the clincher for me,” she said.
The council will vote on the amendment at its next meeting, April 6.
Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org