SOUTH PORTLAND — City councilors are aiming to add school bus stops to the locations where smoking and the use of electronic cigarettes will be prohibited.
Councilors on Oct. 3 unanimously approved a first reading of new ordinance language that would not only ban e-cigarettes in public places where tobacco use is already prohibited, but add school bus stops to the list. Smoking is already prohibited at city bus stops.
It’s also illegal in the city to smoke in public recreation areas, such as parks, beaches and sports fields. If approved, smoking would be prohibited within 25 feet of all school bus stops.
Councilor Claude Morgan suggested adding bus stops to the list last week after he received a complaint from a South Portland Housing Authority resident, who said smokers were blocking the sidewalk in front of her home because there is no smoking allowed on the property.
Morgan criticized the housing authority’s refusal to offer a smoking area at some of the residential properties administered by the SPHA following a request by city officials.
As a result, the problem has “moved out into the neighborhood, and now we’re cleaning up that problem,” he said.
And while the ordinance change is a “no-brainer,” and “the extension into the city bus system, I think, is the logical place to go with this,” Morgan said, private campuses and businesses like the housing authority, which doesn’t allow smoking either in or on its properties, pushes residents who smoke to do it on city property.
It’s unnecessary to single out one business for being smoke-free, Mayor Tom Blake said, but agreed the “point being made here is, we have a pretty serious problem.”
The hope with the added restrictions is to “give those young set of lungs a good start and good chance in life,” Morgan said.
Kevin Adams, director of parks, recreation and waterfront, along with Jana Richards, public health coordinator for Opportunity Alliance, made the proposal last week that included barring individuals from smoking electronic devices used for vaping in those tobacco-restricted areas.
E-cigarettes are reusable devices that vaporize flavored liquid instead of burning tobacco. Vapor from e-cigarettes smells different from cigarette smoke, but still contains nicotine and other substances found in cigarettes.
The Portland City Council in April 2015 took a similar step and banned vaping and the use of e-cigarettes in public places where the use of tobacco was already prohibited.
But the issue is becoming an increasingly “serious” one, Blake said. “It’s unhealthy (and) it’s unsightly.”