Should Northampton, Florence ban smoking downtown? 

  • “There’s an unhealthy bias towards smokers,” says Stephen Corridean, a recording artist in Hadley. “To me, I don’t think (the ban) is necessary. I think they should have designated smoking areas. I think they should have smoking buses and smoking lounges. Of course they want to come under the facade that they care about your health, but I think it’s more (about) having control over somebody. That’s my opinion on it — they don’t care about my health.” STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • “We are houseless folks,” says Pamela Matlock, sitting with Beau Nichols, at Pulaski Park. (Adrian Zayas is in the background.) “I panhandle, I fly signs … We’re of the same opinion that (attorney) Dana Goldblatt was: It’s pointed mainly at us. I’d be willing to bet money that if this ban goes into effect that no officer will stop a tourist walking down the street smoking a cigarette, but he certainly will walk up to me while I’m panhandling, smoking a cigarette, and tell me, ‘Well, you can’t do that. You have to stop.’ They already do … and we’ve been threatened with tickets. How am I going to afford a ticket? I’m a firm believer in if a crime is only punishable by a fine, it’s really only illegal for poor people. Only people like us are going to suffer from that … it’s a matter of fairness. Shop employees stand outside their own shops and smoke cigarettes regularly. I speak with them as they’re standing outside for their cigarette break. I’m not doing anything that anybody else isn’t doing.” STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • “I smoked for 10 years,” says Steven McQuade of Westfield, where his family owns a cupcake shop. “I quit like five or six years ago, and honestly, even I was so weirded out by trying to smoke in public. So I’m all for either a total ban or at least having designated areas and stuff, you know? We own a business in Westfield, and all the time you’ll have people smoke outside, and it filters in — you can smell it. I smoked for long enough to know that it’s not good for you. It smells awful, and it’s not good for you.” STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • “In a closed place, I’m all for it. Don’t bother me with your poison and your toxic nonsense. Go outside, do what you have to do,” says Joe Bernard, a lawyer who lives in Belchertown. As for smoking in the street, he adds, “No, no — you don’t want to legislate public health. If you want to kill yourself, have at it. Just don’t bother me with it.” STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • “Of course I would be biased, because I’m a daily smoker, but basically what I really think is there should be areas,” says Reggie Holly, of Springfield, a former Marine who works at Soldier On. “We should go back to smoking and non-smoking areas. For instance, in a place like this, you know how they have bus stops with enclosed places? That’s where the smokers should go — and that way the air can be fresh around other people … to make sure you guys don’t get anything done to you when it comes to secondhand smoke, I understand that. But I personally like smoking. I just enjoy it. And I understand the risks of smoking, you know, I’m not ignorant to that. I don’t think it should be completely banned. I personally don’t want to give up money for doing something I enjoy. When I smoke, I make sure I’m away from people, just out of pure courtesy.” STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • “It seems kind of Big Brother-ish and mean to me, although I hate cigarette smoke,” says Peg Louraine, pictured on Main Street with her husband, Lew Louraine. “As ex-smokers, we’re probably more sensitive to it, and I’m a cancer survivor, so…” Lew Louraine points to a nearby smoker. “I can smell it now, somebody’s smoking over there,” he says. “Yeah,” she says, “somebody has his cigarettes right there and doesn’t realize, I think, how far the smoke goes, and the secondhand smoke danger — it’s an addiction, and it’s pitiable, and it’s awful.” On whether a designated smoking area would help: “No, how could it? All it does is concentrate it in that area … To me, it’s a really, really difficult choice because, in a perfect world, I would never have to smell cigarettes again. But people are capable of making those choices for themselves. Making them for them, I’m not so sure about.” STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A sign at the entrance of Pulaski Park in Northampton stating it is a smoke-free area. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Published: 6/4/2019 5:27:08 PM

The Northampton Board of Health has proposed a tobacco smoking ban to protect residents who want to avoid secondhand smoke. The ban would prohibit smoking in most public spaces in the downtown business districts of Northampton and Florence.

In Northampton, the ban would cover Main Street between Hawley Street and the intersection of West and Elm streets, as well as the intersection of Summer and King streets to the intersection of Conz and Pleasant streets.

In Florence, it would span Main Street between Lilly Street and Plymouth Avenue.

Smoking could potentially be prohibited on public sidewalks, in public parking lots, on streets, in driveways and in front of businesses. Smoking would still be allowed in city-designated smoking areas.

According to Board of Health member Laurent Levy, the board is working on designating smoking areas that are well-ventilated and that do not interfere with business owners or their patrons.

The board is also working to determine new fines based on existing ones for smoking in public spaces such as public parks, where smoking already is prohibited. The current fines are $100 for a first violation, $200 for a second and $300 for a third.

Levy said that there has been opposition to the ban because of how it may disproportionately affect the homeless population of Northampton. “The board is very well aware of this,” he said, “and is also concerned and is trying to find a balance.”

Although smoking is prohibited in public parks, Pulaski Park in downtown Northampton is still a popular smoking location.

“Smokers have rights, too,” said Stephen Corridean, a recording artist in Hadley, as he smoked a cigarette in the back of the park.

“Seems Draconian, doesn’t it,” Lew Louraine said of the proposed ban, while walking along Main Street with his wife, Peg Louraine.

The next Board of Health meeting is scheduled for June 27, and residents are welcome to air their views on the proposed smoking ban. The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the location to be determined.

“The board doesn’t respond to the comments, but they certainly listen,” Levy said. “If these people want to comment, they should.”

The Gazette spoke to smokers and non-smokers in Pulaski Park and along Main Street about their thoughts on the proposed ban.

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