Burlington considers going smoke-free

  Students who enjoy smoking cigarettes may soon find it harder to light up downtown. The Burlington City Council introduced a resolution to ban smoking in downtown Burlington to improve the health of residents, according to their meeting on April 11. City Councilor Ed Adrian said he believes that banning smoking downtown is just the next step toward making Burlington friendlier. “First it was the bars and restaurants, then the parks and beaches,” Adrian said. “If they can do it in Times Square, why not in Burlington?” The ordinance seeks to physically define a downtown area in which to ban smoking and will also provide designated smoking areas for those who choose to smoke, according to the resolution. However, not all city councilors are in agreement on how to make downtown more pleasant. “I think this [problem] has to do with the loitering in town with some of the younger kids,” City Councilor Paul Decelles said. “I wish they would go ahead and attack the issues from that angle directly.” “I will not be supporting the resolution,” Decelles said. If passed, those who choose to ignore the rule and smoke downtown could be charged civil fines up to $100, according to the resolution. Some students who are living off campus said the bill would be a complete disaster if passed. “The smokers downtown outnumber police by a huge margin,” sophomore Will Durst said. “I don’t know how they would go about enforcing it.” Even though the amount of smoke on Church Street would be cut down, banning smoking would not solve the loitering is sue downtown, Durst said. City Councilor Joan Shannon, who introduced the bill, said during the meeting that while the issue maybe large in scope, there should not be any problems with enforcing the ban. “There are concerns that the police will not be able to patrol the area,” Shannon said. “But in the past with these bans, we have seen the public step up to remind those breaking the law to stop.” Shannon also spoke out against those who believe that a smoking ban would hurt the bars and restaurants downtown. “When we agreed to ban smoking in restaurants and bars, we heard arguments about how we were going to put all of them out of business,” Shannon said. “But business actually increased after the ban.” With 86 percent of people in the Chittenden area identifying as nonsmokers, there is no reason to think why the same thing could not be seen here, she said. City Councilor Kurt Wright disagreed and proposed an amendment to the resolution that would check with local business owners and public opinion before passing any ban. “We have a fragile downtown and we can’t risk endangering business,” Wright said. “And I would want to make sure that those voices are heard.” The ordinance will now seek input from the Burlington Business Association and the public on how to best serve the public interest, according to the resolution. The Council will meet again on April 26 and the changed resolution will go in front of the members for a vote.