TREMONT — Visitors and residents can expect to see “No Smoking” signs in public areas around town come spring.
Acting on a recommendation from Healthy Acadia, selectmen at Monday’s meeting unanimously approved authorizing Town Manager Chris Saunders to work with the organization to draft a non-smoking policy for the town that will lead to posting signs in public areas.
Healthy Acadia representative Sonia Turanski spoke to the board about a policy versus an ordinance. She said it will not require enforcement but rather encourage folks not to smoke in public, especially in areas where children gather.
“The only thing I worry about is people smoking in their cars, which is worse,” said Selectman Mike Mansolilli.
Turanski said creating policies in towns are particularly important now that e-cigarettes and vape pens have become so popular among younger people. While the electronic cigarette delivers nicotine through an inhaled vapor instead of smoke, it can still create second-hand nicotine exposure.
“You can put up a sign,” said Turanski. “You’re sending a message to the young people.”
She went on to explain to selectmen that smoking with a Juul or e-cigarettes is so discreet they are often used anywhere in public and have become an issue in area high schools.
“Is there an age limit?” asked Chairman Kevin Buck after asking what a Juul was.
“It’s supposed to be 21,” Turanski responded, adding that most sales are online when it comes to electronic smoking alternatives.
As with conventional cigarettes, the age to purchase in Maine increased to 21 years in 2017. Voters in Maine approved the sale of recreational marijuana in the state in 2016, although that has been held up in state legislation. Turanski said the legalization of marijuana “makes it look more safe” and is another reason to post public signs.
“Isn’t that banned in public places anyway?” Mansolilli asked.
“It is,” said Turanski, “but that doesn’t mean they don’t do it anyway.”
Places in town that were mentioned for posting the “No Smoking” signs included recreational trails, the town office, the ice skating rink and the town wharf.
Selectman Howard “Howdy” Goodwin said enforcing a no-smoking policy among the area’s fishermen at the wharf would be a challenge.
“Seventy-five percent of fishermen are smoking when they go to get on their boats,” he said.
Policies are not necessarily aimed at older, seasoned smokers, Turanski said, but more about setting an example for younger residents and discouraging smoking among visitors.
Bar Harbor implemented a policy citing tobacco-free zones in public places throughout the town in 2014. This covers parks, the village green, playgrounds, athletic fields and other outdoor recreation locations. That policy includes cigars, smoke-free tobacco, e-cigarettes and vaping devices.