Village considers smoking ban in parks

The Village of Mamaroneck is proposing a ban on smoking tobacco products in public parks at anytime. A similar law is already in place outlawing smoking during sporting events or other activities that may involve children, but the law proposed on Feb. 24 is more far reaching. File photo

The Village of Mamaroneck is proposing a ban on smoking tobacco products in public parks at anytime. A similar law is already in place outlawing smoking during sporting events or other activities that may involve children, but the law proposed on Feb. 24 is more far reaching. File photo

By ASHLEY HELMS
If a new proposed law is passed in the Village of Mamaroneck, smokers will be out of luck in public parks.

A ban on smoking tobacco products, most notably cigarettes, in parks within the village was proposed by the Board of Trustees on Feb. 24. A prohibition on smoking in the parks is already in place during sporting events and other activities that involve children, but the current proposal would outlaw smoking at any time in public parks.

The village has 14 parks, including Harbor Island Park and Columbus Park on Van Ranst Place.

Village Manager Richard Slingerland said the administration has received a few complaints about smoking in parks, but the current proposal was fueled by concerns raised by the Committee for the Environment. He said the board is largely in favor of the ban and a public hearing on the matter is scheduled for the March 10 Board of Trustees meeting.

The committee’s drive to enact a ban in every village park also centered on concerns over second-hand smoke. The state only outlawed smoking in public parks nearby playgrounds and other areas for children.

“The state enacted a playground smoking ban, but it didn’t cover the entire park. We are looking to do [it in] the entire park,” Slingerland said.

The ban would fall under the current parks section of the village code, Slingerland said, and would carry a $250 fine for offenders. The  parks section of village code states that, in addition to a $250 fine, offenders could face up to 15 days in county jail, but Slingerland said it’s unlikely anyone would face jail time for illegally lighting up.

To enforce the law, the village manager said larger events at the parks will have park rangers and police officers on duty watching for people smoking where they shouldn’t be.

In Westchester County, it’s illegal to smoke in restaurants, near schools and hallways of apartment buildings, among other public locations. Smoking is permitted outdoors, but not underneath an overhang or anything that might trap smoke.

The county law exempts private membership clubs, hotel rooms and cigar bars from the smoking bans.

Many colleges have also enacted smoking bans on their campuses. Westchester Community College stopped allowing students and staff to smoke on campus in November 2011; it was the first college in the county to enact such a rule.

Starting in the 2014-2015
school year, the State University of New York made it against school policy to smoke outside any of its campuses. According to the 2003 Westchester Smoke-Free Worksite law, smoking regular paper cigarettes inside any work place with “one or more employees” is illegal.

Trustee Andres Bermudez Hallstrom, a Democrat, said the ban is based on environmental and general health concerns. If there are cigarette receptacles in outside areas, residents will be required to dispose of their cigarettes in it to cut down on pollution. If they don’t, Bermudez Hallstrom said they will face a fine “similar to staying in the park past dusk.”

Citing a few complaints submitted to the board via email, Trustee Louis Santoro, a Republican, said some village employees have grown concerned over other employees smoking electronic cigarettes inside village court. He said he wanted to know if a law against that would be written into the parks smoking ban.

An electronic cigarette is a battery-powered smoking simulation device that vaporizes a liquid for inhalation, similar to smoking a regular cigarette. Some solutions contain nicotine, the addictive quality in cigarettes, mixed with other flavors while others don’t contain nicotine.

Village Attorney Linda Whitehead said the village’s smoking ban will outlaw electronic cigarette smoking in parks, but a precedent has not been set yet for smoking them inside village buildings. Some electronic cigarettes contain nicotine and can pose a second hand smoke concern.

Catherine Hiller, a member of the Village of Mamaroneck Committee for the Environment, could not be reached for comment as of press time.

CONTACT: ashley@hometwn.com