Butting out



Bar Harbor is to be congratulated for extending to all town parks the local ban on smoking in public places. And, the prohibition against the use of so-called smokeless e-cigarettes, which transport nicotine and other harmful chemicals on a cloud of water vapor, also is welcome. While e-cigarettes don’t produce smoke, the emissions pose a health risk to others nearby.

Fresh air, free of all harmful chemicals, should be the default setting in any public place.

It will be nice to enjoy next summer’s band concerts on the Village Green with the family, free of the clouds of smoke that occasionally have wafted through the crowd in previous years.

Bar Harbor officials admit that while signs will be posted, most of the compliance effort will come from folks pointing out the rules, politely we hope, to smokers. That probably will be enough, in most cases, to help spread the word and secure compliance. If that doesn’t work, the Village Green is only a few steps from police headquarters, where additional persuasion could be secured.

Along with getting tougher on smoking, many communities in Maine and across the nation also have been cracking down on a related pollution problem – cigarette butts.

Portland, the one in Southern Maine, specifically mentions cigarette butts in its litter ordinance. Those who toss butts on the ground can be fined an amount between $100 and $500.

Discarding any item from a motor vehicle already is illegal in Maine, but scofflaws seldom are prosecuted. Tossing cigarette butts out of moving cars is an especially anti-social act because of the added accidental fire risk. The extent of the problem is easy to understand. Along some state roads, anti-litter groups have counted as many as 3,000 cigarette butts per mile.

In Portland, the city and merchants also have gone the extra mile by placing several dozen downtown receptacles for cigarette butts. The effectiveness of that effort remains to be seen.

In downtown Bar Harbor, cigarette butts also constitute a large part of the littering problem. Unfortunately, butts are the perfect size to wedge between bricks on the sidewalks. And large numbers tend to build up beneath the iron grates around the base of trees along the streetscape.

A local ordinance that reinforces butts as litter also would go hand-in-hand with the battle against second-hand smoke.

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