A new smoking ban will be the next step toward gentrification in downtown Brunswick, a town councilor warned Monday night.
The Times Record reports that the Brunswick Town Council approved the new ordinance at its Monday meeting. The ordinance prohibits smoking and vaping between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Maine Street from Bath Road to the Androscoggin River; within 20 feet of schools, bus stops and sidewalks; and all public parks.
The penalty for a first offense is a warning, but repeat offenders could face a $50 fine.
The ordinance was proposed by Councilors Jane Millett and Kathy Wilson, The Times Record reports.
Those councilors opposed to the ordinance were concerned about what they called the “socio-economic implications” of the ban.
“I’m happy our downtown is getting cleaner, but it’s one more step toward the gentrification of downtown,” Councilor Steve Walker said, according to The Times Record.
Another councilor, Dan Ankeles, said he was concerned about the ban being “a way to sweep away certain types of people from downtown,” The Times Record reports.
The ban comes amid a growing movement to clamp down on smoking across the state. Other communities, such as Houlton and Bangor, have prohibited smoking in certain public parks. The Bangor ban, approved by the City Council in 2016, only includes playgrounds, swimming pools, ball fields and other amenities geared toward children rather than all city parks.
In 2017, the Legislature overrode a veto from then-Gov. Paul LePage to raise the legal age for buying tobacco products from 18 to 21.
Brunswick councilors also raised questions about how the ordinance would be enforced. The town’s police chief, Richard Rizzo, told the council that violations would be treated similar to a traffic violation, but that it would be a low priority for his department, according to The Times Record.
Despite the concerns, other councilors saw the ordinance as a win for public health, The Times Record reports.
“We’re talking about public health here,” Millett said. “Our rights [as nonsmokers] trump a small percentage of people who want to smoke and blow it out amid the public.”