NEW BRITAIN - The Common Council unanimously agreed Wednesday that all tobacco and marijuana use is strictly prohibited in city-owned properties.
During a regular meeting, the council amended a city ordinance that bans the use of all tobacco and marijuana products on public school grounds and in designated public places within the city. The public places include any property that is under the supervision and control of the city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services, such as athletic facilities, parks, playgrounds, trails, and other areas where people may assemble for recreational purposes. This also includes any community, recreation, or senior center buildings located on park property.
A tobacco product, based on the ordinance, means any tobacco product in all of its forms, including a lighted cigarette, cigar, pipe, or similar device, and all electronic cigarettes, vape pens, and chewing tobacco. A marijuana product means any marijuana product in all forms.
Alderman Francisco Santiago, who initiated the amendment, said ultimately this is a public safety issue and urged for its adoption.
“Parents come up to me to tell me that individuals are just smoking in parks with no respect for other people,” he said. “The point is that it shouldn’t happen in a park where there are children. It’s a safety issue, that’s all that this is.”
While the city may establish designated smoking areas within these tobacco-free zones for tobacco use only, the code says, “It shall be prohibited at all times, for an individual to use tobacco or marijuana products in any form while in a government building, playground, sports field, public park, or school ground.”
Questions were raised on the potential difficulties of enforcement. Alderman Daniel Salerno pointed out that the discipline and penalties for violations are his biggest concern.
Based on the ordinance, the city Police Department will take enforcement action when a violation has occurred. A citation issued for a first offense will be a warning only. Persons receiving subsequent citations will be deemed to have committed an infraction and will be fined not more than $99 for each violation.
Further discussions between the council and the community services department will continue in order to decide the locations within the city that would have designated smoking areas.
Alderman Aram Ayalon said it was good to have some leeway in the ordinance so decisions could be made on an ongoing basis.