Maine smokers already are banned from lighting up in restaurants, bars, public buildings, most workplaces, school campuses and in their cars if children are present.
Now Sen. John Nutting, D-Leeds, wants to prohibit smoking on beaches in Maine’s state parks.
“Some of my constituents called me, saying they’re tired of not being able to put their kids down on the beach because they crawl along and put cigarette butts in their mouths,” Nutting said. “Also, at some of the big beaches on the coast, people are packed in as tightly as if you were sitting in an auditorium, but you can just smoke away. … Why should you go sit on a beach if three feet away someone is smoking a cigar?”
Beaches at Reid State Park and Popham Beach State Park are especially crowded during the summer months, Nutting said. “I would say that a summer weekend at Reid State Park is probably the peak area in the whole state for people to be subjected to secondhand smoke,” he said.
The bill, LD 67, would make it illegal to smoke tobacco or any other substance on any salt- or freshwater beach at any of Maine’s state parks, including Baxter State Park. Nutting said butt cans placed at some beaches go unused as beach-goers simply bury their cigarette butts in the sand. Smoking in other areas of the parks would not be affected by the law as it now is written.
Nutting said his proposal would make beaches more attractive to vacationers and has been met with approval by other lawmakers as well as public health organizations.
Ed Miller, executive director of the Maine chapter of the American Lung Association, said his organization would support the new legislation. “This is simply a follow-on to what has been happening. … Another effort to de-normalize smoking. More and more people object to people smoking in public,” he said. Protecting chil-dren from secondhand smoke and from exposure to the hazardous litter of cigarette butts is a priority, he said.
Miller noted that some municipalities have initiated bans of their own, such as a prohibition in Portland against smoking near public playgrounds. Some of Maine’s most popular ocean beaches are under municipal jurisdiction, he said.
A spokesman for Altria Group Inc., the corporate parent of the Philip Morris tobacco company, referred a media inquiry to the Philip Morris Web site for the company’s policies on public place smoking restrictions.
The company says it supports restriction of smoking in indoor places such as public buildings, public transportation and workplaces. The company also supports restrictions that protect children from secondhand smoke.
But Philip Morris objects to broader smoking bans.
“Smoking should be permitted outdoors except in very particular circumstances, such as outdoor areas primarily designed for children, “ the Web site says.
A public hearing for Nutting’s proposal has not been scheduled.