By Gretchen Webster
WESTPORT — A plan to ban smoking — tobacco and marijuana — at town beaches and recreational facilities is under review.
A proposal to impose the prohibition was discussed at Wednesday night’s Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, but no vote was taken.
As proposed by Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Fava, the rule would outlaw all smoking and vaping at municipal beaches, athletic fields, pools and racquet courts.
She said that Westport is an outlier on the issue, as four out of five Connecticut towns ban smoking at town recreational facilities.
Carmen Roda, operational manager for the Parks and Recreation Department, said there appears to be a rising number of people smoking at the town’s recreational properties — and, as a result, more complaints about smokers, especially near areas used by children, such as playgrounds or swimming pools.
A recent encounter between an upset parent and a cannabis smoker near a playground became confrontational, Roda said, and escalated quickly.
“It will be more confrontational if we don’t take steps,” he said.
Secondhand smoke is a health issue, as well as a sanitation issue and can become an enforcement issue if smoking is not officially banned from recreational areas, Roda said.
Fava recommended a regulation that would limit smoking 25 feet from a recreational area, the same limit as state regulations, she said.
The smoking ban, however, would not include parking lots, the golf course or other parks.
The Town Attorney’s Office and police have also reviewed the proposed prohibition, Fava said.
Commission members agreed that a smoking ban should be instituted as a regulation, instead of an ordinance or law.
The commission did not vote on the proposal, but decided to discuss enacting it at a future meeting.
Freelance writer Gretchen Webster, a Fairfield County journalist and journalism teacher for many years, was editor of the Fairfield Minuteman newspaper for 10 years and teaches journalism at Southern Connecticut State University.
As an occasional cigar smoker I was pleased to see that the proposed ban on smoking would not include “golf courses or other [unspecified] parks.” It is concerning that the those of us who enjoy tobacco responsibly and politely should be included in a sweeping ban on smoking. The problem isn’t the somewhat rare cigar aficionado but rather the more common and noticeable cigarette, vape and cannabis smokers. Perhaps what is called for is a targeted ordinance that would prohibit smoking within a specific distance of certain locations and facilities, such as playgrounds, schools or designated areas at the beach. Then those who choose to smoke may be free to do so without impacting those who don’t.
I think Parks and Rec’s idea to ban tobacco smoking is a bad idea.
I don’t smoke but my husband and some of his friends enjoy a cigar at Compo Beach on occasional summer evenings.
Neighboring beach-goers have never complained and, in fact, some have told us they enjoy the aroma of a cigar.
With tobacco smoking banned, our friends and I would use Compo less often.
(full disclosure: my husband is the publisher of Westport Journal)
If you are outdoors and courteous smoking should not be an issue. If you are on a bleachers and sitting next to many people your judgement should be to hold back or at least ask your sitting neighbors if they mind.
When on the beach there is plenty of space that allows smokers to enjoy themselves without interfering with anybody else’s fun.
So while I am all for indoor bans outside smoking should not be a problem as long as everyone respects their “outdoor” neighbors.
Compo Beach is a huge area. Having a total ban on smoking in the whole property is a huge overreach of legislation or “quality of life” public space management.
My point of view is personal. If once every three months, I want to go to a less crowded part of the beach, and smoke a cigar on a Sunday afternoon, that should be okay. The proposed ban would prevent that.
I would be supportive of restrictions on marijuana consumption within 100 yards of a kids playground, but a total ban of tobacco is unnecessary . To many, it would constitute poor management of the great asset that Compo is for EVERYONE in Westport !
From someone who detests smoke, I think banning smoking on the beach is a bad idea. My hub smokes one cigar a week and often enjoys it on Friday evenings at the beach. No one has ever seemed bothered by it, there are no children near us at that time and I suppose he thinks it’s a nice way to end the work week.
I am very much in favor of allowing those who enjoy cigars to be able to smoke where ever they want but not within a matter of feet from playgrounds,etc. There are enough ordinances governing allowable and tasteful behavior already ; no need for another one. Please allow us to smoke the occasional cigar at the beach !!
I do not think it is a good idea to have a total ban on smoking outdoors – such as a ban that would prevent the few people who do enjoy an occasional cigar on the beach from partaking in that pleasure. As long as the smoking is done respectfully and responsibly, it really should not be an issue. If the town wants to designate certain areas as off limits that are closer to a playground, I can understand that, but a total ban makes no sense.
Oh, C’mon, “liberal” Westport! One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. I like the smell of gardenias, and I want the Town to mandate a gardenia smell-blower on every beach. On the other hand, I hate the smell of grilling beef. Take down all those cooking pits! And picnic tables mean more ants and more people and more litter too. PASS MORE LAWS against people doing what they like to do in a “recreational area.” How bout producing a list if “approved recreations”?