Westport considers smoking ban at beaches
WESTPORT — Following in the footsteps of neighboring towns, the Parks and Recreation Commission is considering a ban on smoking and vaping at Westport’s beaches.
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Commissioner Karen Hess said she favored Bridgeport’s smoking ban, which included parks, playgrounds, sports fields and beaches.
“It’s basically the places you’re going to have children,” she said at Wednesday’s meeting. “I think that makes a lot of sense.”
Hess said the discussion was timely due to the state looking to legalize recreational marijuana.
“I think we certainly don’t want that at the beach and we don’t want that at playgrounds for sure,” she said.
Early thoughts were to start the ban on the beaches and include parks later. Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Fava said if the ban is added to her department’s rules and regulations, there is already a fine of $77 in place for violations.
“You wouldn’t have to create something new,” she said. “There’s already a mechanism.”
However, some commissioners found the ban unnecessary.
“I just don’t see it happening enough to make it worth the trouble of having a law,” Commissioner Alec Stevens said, added laws currently in place are also being violated.
“We have laws about bottles and liquor on the beach and that’s violated constantly,” he said.
If a ban was ultimately approved, Commissioner Edward Iannone said he’d still like to create a spot for smokers, though not near children.
“I don’t think it’s fair I can smoke my cigar on the golf course and someone can’t have their tradition of smoking a cigarette while watching the sunset,” he said. “It’s tricky. ... I don’t know where it shakes out.”
Although no vote was scheduled, Chairman Charles Haberstroh hopes to have the framework for a ban completed in the near future.
“If we don’t do it relatively in a timely manner, it’s not going to take effect this year,” he said. “The whole point of this is to consider it in the off season.”
Haberstroh said he didn’t want to create a useless law, but wanted to cut down on potential smoke around kids.
“A walk in the park with a cigar is one thing, but on the beach with a lot of kids is another thing,” he said.
Jon Polayes, a Westport resident, commended the commission for broaching the subject. If implemented, the ban would allow residents to intervene with smokers on the beach, he said.
“Do I want to infringe on anyone’s right to smoke? No,” Polayes said. “But I don’t have to enjoy it with them, and that’s a more important right.”
The commission decided to table the discussion for a later meeting.