SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council voted to unanimously expand public smoking prohibitions Monday night to include e-cigarettes and vaporizers.
Councilors also added school bus stops to the list of places in the city where smoking is prohibited.
Tobacco-based products, like pipes and cigarettes, are already restricted in at least 20 public parks, beaches, public bus stops and outdoor recreation facilities around the city.
Councilors also voted 6-1 on Oct. 17 to amend the proposal to set the buffer for smoking around those areas from 25 feet to 20 feet, to maintain continuity with both state regulations and Portland’s similar ordinance.
Councilor Claude Morgan opposed the amendment, in favor of keeping the distance at 25 feet, because “a reduction down to 20 feet does a disservice to those kids” waiting at the bus stops, he said.
School bus stops were added to the list, partially because Morgan said a constituent complained to him that her children were being exposed to “passive smoke” as they waited for the bus in the mornings.
Although many instances likely go unreported, Deputy Police Chief Amy Berry said Wednesday that her belief is that enforcement of the smoking restriction in designated areas is “not something we deal with frequently.”
Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Director Kevin Adams said in September, however, that enacting a formal ban will give officers more ability to enforce the restrictions on all types of smoking.
Adams, along with Jana Richards, the public health coordinator for Opportunity Alliance, approached the council at the end of September with a proposal to add e-cigarettes and vaporizers to the list of banned devices in public places.
As part of an initiative to mitigate the use by young people of the the reusable devices that vaporize flavored liquid instead of burning tobacco, Richards told councilors that adding the e-cigs to the list of banned activities will make it easier for police officers to enforce the restriction.
In many cases, she told councilors, her organization sees teenagers who start smoking e-cigs transition to regular cigarettes.
The penalties for smoking closer than 25 feet from the restricted locations will result in fines ranging from $100 to $500, depending on the number of violations.