New London — You can still smoke in the city's parks, beaches and other recreational areas.
A draft ordinance that would ban tobacco on any city recreational property or within 30 feet of the entrances and exits of city owned buildings failed to move to the City Council for a vote during Monday's Public Welfare Committee meeting, but Chairwoman Marie Friess-McSparran said she would revisit the ordinance at a future committee meeting.
The vote failed 1 to 1, with Councilor Wade Hyslop opposed and Councilor Anthony Nolan absent. Friess-McSparran supported the ordinance she crafted, which would impose a $49 fine on violators using any tobacco in the city's 19 "athletic facilities, parks, playgrounds, beaches, trails and other areas where people may assemble for recreational purposes."
School grounds would not be included, but the ordinance calls for enforcement within 30 feet of city owned or leased buildings, including City Hall, the fire and police department and the public works building. Tobacco, be it smoking, chewing or spitting, is prohibited, according to the draft ordinance.
"How enforceable is this?" Hyslop said. "Will we be able to enforce this or is it just another opportunity to say we've done something?"
Friess-McSparran said she modeled the ordinance off one in Montville, but said she would be willing to make changes to get it passed and up to the council level. She said the biggest health hazard is secondhand smoke, so the types of restricted tobaccos could be altered.
"Our cops clearly can't enforce every law out there, with everything they can't see, but I think this is an important ordinance that we should get rolling and start somewhere," she said.
Last month, the committee held a public hearing on the proposal. Ten people spoke at the hearing, and all but one were in favor of banning smoking in parks, beaches and around public buildings.
The ordinance would allow the Recreation Department to post "Tobacco-Free Zone" in the covered city parks and properties. A similar ban was proposed last summer but it died in committee.
Groton and Montville both have a similar "no smoking" rules for playground and parks where children are present. In New York City, it is illegal to smoke in city parks, beaches, boardwalks and public plazas, like Times Square. Violators can be fined $50.