Tickets from Northampton smoking ban? Zero

Staff Writer
Published: 6/19/2019 5:40:15 PM

NORTHAMPTON – As the Board of Health considers a policy that would ban smoking in almost all of downtown Northampton and Florence, questions have been raised about enforcement of the proposed policy. 

But as it turns out, from 2014 onward, Northampton Police have issued no tickets for smoking cigarettes.

In 2014, the city’s Board of Health banned all smoking in public and private clubs, workplaces, city parks, playgrounds, athletic fields, swimming areas and nursing homes, within 25 feet of city buildings, in all outdoor areas of restaurants and at bus stops and taxi cab waiting areas.

The one citation for public smoking issued in the city comes from 2010, when a ticket was issued to an individual for smoking marijuana in Pulaski Park, according to Northampton Police records. The ticket is the same type of ticket that would be issued for smoking a cigarette in a prohibited area today.

Jane Lawnicki, head of the records department, said that from 2006 to the present, about 50 warnings were handed out by police for smoking.

Asked about enforcing a potentially expanded ban, Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper said in an email, “Like so many of our ordinances, our focus will remain on education.  The great majority of people who we encounter and who are in violation of ordinances respond when our officers simply inform them of the rule.  We anticipate that the BOH’s goal of restricting smoking activity in the downtown area will primarily be addressed by their agents through public information and education.”

Northampton defense lawyer Rachel Weber isn’t a fan of the proposal, even with the enforcement history of the current smoking ban.

“It feels like a veiled attempt to control the population of downtown,” Weber said.

She said it would make populations who use public areas more easily targeted, which she said usually translates into the houseless, the poor and people of color being impacted. She said smoking is a public health crisis, but pointed to other activities that people do in public that also impact other people’s health, such as wearing perfume that can act as an allergen, driving a car or bringing a pet into a public space.

Joanne Levin, chairwoman of the Board of Health, said the expanded ban is just a proposal at this point, and there’s no guarantee that it will be acted on. She also said that the board hasn’t explored the issue of enforcement yet.

The Board of Health will discuss the proposal at its June 27 meeting, which will start at 5:30 p.m.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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