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Smoking ban proposal sparks debate in Amherst

Smokers and non-smokers arrived at Bangs Community Center Thursday to discuss possible new changes to the smoking laws of Amherst, which would prohibit smoking on town-owned outdoor properties and outside of restaurants.

According to Julie Federman, health director for the town of Amherst, the amendment is meant to protect the town’s workers from the potentially adverse health affects of second-hand smoke.

The room was filled to capacity by many University of Massachusetts students, local business owners, and Amherst citizens, most of whom opposed the proposed amendment to the law.

Members of the Board of Health notified certain organizations and businesses that they thought may be concerned about the amendment.\

Many members of the UMass Cannabis Reform Committee attended the meeting to oppose the measure.

President of the CRC Cory Gillis felt this change to the bylaws would adversely affect the Extravaganja event held on the Amherst Common each April.

Extravaganja is an annual festival which invites bands and members of the “smoking” culture to revel in good company and partake in herbal recreation very publicly.

According to Chris Pappademas, a sophomore plant biotech major, the event brings more than 1,000 people to Amherst Commons every year.

“Many people smoking on the common may not be aware that the law exists,” said Gillis, who is a Japanese major. “It feels like civil liberties are not being respected by the town.”

The proposed amendment would come in addition to the smoking bylaws passed in 1999, later amended June 1, 2009, which banned smoking in bars and restaurants.

Tony Maroulis, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce and also the organizer of the Taste of Amherst festival, voiced concern that the proposed amendment would potentially hurt attendance to such an event.

According to Maroulis, the addition of the new legislation is not necessary, and could potentially deter people from coming to civic events. Maroulis continued by stating that summer events on the Amherst common bring over 30,000 people, which helps to stimulate the local Amherst economy, and that he feels banning smoking at such events could dissuade some from coming out.

Amherst resident and Tabella’s Restaurant waiter Chris Powell, 20, echoed others who were worried about the potential impact on the local economy.

“Local businesses have haven struggling over the past couple of years,” said Powell. “Why are they trying to make [the town] unattractive to graduates and people who can rectify the situation?” Powell asked the board.

Cindy Walker, 45, also of Amherst, felt the public hearing was a success.

“I think a lot of good points were brought up by citizens [of Amherst],” said Walker. “I don’t smoke around my kids in the house or in the car,” continued Walker, “If I can’t smoke outside, then where can I smoke?”

David Ahfeld, a member of the Board, believed Thursday’s discussion proved fruitful.

“There were a lot of interesting comments,” he said

The law already in place imposes a fine of $100 for a first offense on the manager or organizer for smoking in a place where smoking is prohibited. The fine increases by $100 every time a person violates the policy, and runs to $300 per subsequent violations in a two year period between each violation.

Bobby Hitt can be reached at rhitt@student.umass.edu.

Comments
9 Responses to “Smoking ban proposal sparks debate in Amherst”
  1. Greg Osborn says:

    Let them ban smoking. Im switching to those new Crown7 electric cigarettes that only emit water vapor so I can smoke wherever. Im done with all the drama from smoking regular smokes! This is SOCIALISM at its finest!

  2. Larry Kelley says:

    Reminds me of the original “smoking ban in bars” war from 1999-2000 where barowners and, naturally, smokers screamed the sky was falling.

    The ban barely, held–and the diffident State rode in a few years later on their White Horse and made it a statewide ban/law and now EVERYBODY has gotten used to it.

    This too shall pass.

  3. Chris says:

    How is this socialism?

    Really, explain. I’m baffled.

  4. Ben says:

    Wait…OUTSIDE of restaurants? Does that include bars? So first they told smokers they had to “just” go outside. But now they can’t even go there.

    Always to “protect the workers” of course. Let’s imagine that I’m a waiter at a restaurant. Or I’m a cook. And someone is smoking outside. How am I being harmed? Even if they were smoking INSIDE I wouldn’t be harmed, due to the fact that “science” of second hand smoke has been about as honest as the “science” of global warming.

    This is uptight, prudish, nanny-state legislation. It’s part of the dishonest incrementalist approach aimed at harrassing and taxing smokers out of existence. If you don’t like cigarettes, then DON’T SMOKE. But don’t harrass other people.

  5. Eric says:

    ok so the law is to only ban smoking at any public outdoor event and on all patios that food is served. So easy fix, dont serve food outside or have the patrons come inside to order and bring it outside. in the recent news article on wwlp there was talk that a bar owner went to the town meeting asked if he could still let people smoke on his patio if he didnt serve food out there and they said yes. he basically said well thats all i wanted to know and left happy. for the public outdoor event how bout a smoking area?

  6. Nicht er sie… sie frisst ihn!

    You know who else banned smoking in public?

    That’s right…

    Nanny State uberen allen!

  7. BanDamages says:

    More here: http://cleanairquality.blogspot.com/2006/11/is-secondhand-smoke-health-hazard.html

    OSHA itself has stated regarding secondhand smoke:

    “Field studies of environmental tobacco smoke indicate that under normal conditions, the components in tobacco smoke are diluted below existing Permissible Exposure Levels (PELS.) as referenced in the Air Contaminant Standard (29 CFR 1910.1000)…It would be very rare to find a workplace with so much smoking that any individual PEL would be exceeded.”

    Online here: http://cleanairquality.blogspot.com/2010/02/quintessential-argument-against-smoking.html

    Careful consideration is important, because arbitrary and unnecessary smoking ban legislation everywhere has caused 100,000+ job losses:
    http://cleanairquality.blogspot.com/2009/03/worldwide-economic-meltdown-and.html

    Financial ties between the anti-smoking activists and pharmaceutical nicotine interests
    http://cleanairquality.blogspot.com/2006/04/financial-ties-between-anti-smoking.html

  8. Jim says:

    Eric – if this article is correct, the ban would affect all public-owned property, not just outside of bars/restaurants or public outdoor events.

    That means that a person walking down the sidewalk or sitting on the Common, with no one nearby, would be violating the ban.

    A bit extreme, perhaps?

  9. Eric says:

    Jim – its not going to be like that. if you check the article on wwlp youll see its a little more clear. Its only town owned properties that would be at that time holding a public event such as taste of amherst and the outdoor patios where food is served.

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