The New Haven Board of Alders passed a new ban on tobacco use in many public areas to mitigate the health risks of tobacco products, specifically for children.
The ordinance, passed on Monday, targets tobacco use in areas frequented by young people and prohibits use in government buildings, playgrounds, sports fields, public schools and Lighthouse Point Park. Tobacco use encompasses smoking, chewing tobacco and using electronic delivery systems. The ban will be effective immediately, but penalties will only be issued after a 90-day grace period. First-time offenders will receive a warning, but after the first infraction, police may fine offenders up to $100.
“Tobacco use in and around City facilities … creates the contradictory message of young people and adults being encouraged to engage in healthy activities and lifestyles, while at the same time being exposed to those using tobacco products,” the ordinance reads.
In order to facilitate the transition to the new policy, areas subject to the ban will be marked with signs stating that they are “Tobacco-Free Zones.” Other signs will mark city-designated smoking areas.
This ordinance grew out of the city’s recent efforts to combat the health risks of smoking through the New Haven Smokeout initiative, which aims to make the city smoke-free by June 2016, the end of this fiscal year. In February, Community Services Administrator Martha Okafor said a task force would be drafting legislation to ban smoking in parks and schools, and this ordinance is the result of that effort.
An earlier version of the ordinance had a wider scope, banning the use of tobacco in a variety of unspecified city-owned properties. But at the April 27 meeting of the Legislation Committee of the Board of Alders, the ban was amended to be limited to areas frequented by children.
Additional amendments included expanding pre-existing laws to ban e-cigarettes within government buildings, limiting the punishment for a first-time offense and giving the city the power to designate smoking areas within properties subject to the ban. The amended version of the ordinance passed the Legislation Committee unanimously in April.
Earlier this month, Sen. Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 expressed his support for the proposed ordinance at a press conference, citing statistics about the health risks associated with tobacco use.
“Children at playgrounds, employees at work and families relaxing at the beach deserve fresh air untainted by toxic smoke and chemicals,” Blumenthal said in a press release.
According to Paul Kowalski SPH ’79, acting director of health at the New Haven Health Department, 1,000 deaths in New Haven in the past 10 years were due to smoking-related causes.