BRISTOL - The cityâ€™s parks and recreational facilities will soon be smoke-free zones.
An ordinance has been approved prohibiting smoking and vaping in city parks. It will take effect in March, 14 days after the city publishes a legal notice in the paper, according to Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu.
While violating the new ordinance may result in a $90 fine, Zoppo-Sassu said it â€świll be complaint-driven and not something the Police Department would be out patrolling to actively enforce.â€ť
â€śThat said,â€ť she added, â€śif park users are vaping near playgrounds or smoking while sitting next to you at a summer concert, it is now an enforceable policy.â€ť
Council member David Preleski said the ban was recommended to the council after the ordinance committee, which he chairs, held a public hearing earlier in the month. â€śThis is a new ordinance that I think is long in the making and is overdue,â€ť he said.
Joshua Medeiros, superintendent of Parks, Recreation, Youth and Community Services, agreed, saying his department started working on the policy last summer and it has been endorsed unanimously by both the Board of Parks Commissioners and the Youth Commission.
â€śOur department and both of our commissions are very passionate about this issue,â€ť he said. â€śThe ordinance change is supported by the Bristol Burlington Health District, and I know our chief of police is excited about it as well.â€ť
He said the councilâ€™s approval means Bristol will join â€śthousands of municipalities across the state and country that are adopting similar language, with the hopes that weâ€™re creating a smoke-free environment for the many patrons that come and use our parks and our recreational spaces throughout the year.â€ť
Medeiros said his department is pursuing CAPRA (Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies) accreditation, and having a smoking ban will help reach the commissionâ€™s standards.
â€śIt is also aligned with our Drug Free Communities federal grant, which is going to provide some funding to put up signs within the parks and informational materials to promote the policy change,â€ť he said.
â€śAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking, which causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis,â€ť according to a statement from Parks, Recreation, Youth and Community Services.
â€śSmoking remains the leading cause of preventable illness, contributing to more than 480,000 deaths in the United States every year and 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure,â€ť the statement said.
â€śItâ€™s our departmentâ€™s mission to enhance the quality of life for all Bristol residents and we believe access to free, smoke free public parks is a right of every resident of our city,â€ť Medeiros said.
â€śFor many users, these outdoor spaces may be the only available place to be in-touch with nature and enjoy access to clean, fresh air. We want our outdoor spaces to remain open and accessible while also producing the best user experience for our guests and the environment,â€ť he continued.
â€śThe ordinance change will allow both the public and our staff to address individuals that are smoking near playgrounds, spray parks, swimming pools, and other recreational areas where kids and adults play,â€ť Medeiros said.
â€śThe work of the B.E.S.T.-4- Bristol Drug Free Community Coalition is essential and this ordinance change is one piece of a community wide change initiative that will strengthen our cities health and wellbeing for years to come,â€ť he concluded.
Last October, Connecticut raised the statewide smoking age from 18 to 21, joining 15 other states in raising the age, as well as countless cities and towns across the country, including Southington, which made the change back in March.
The three-year difference drew support from schools, health professionals and even some smoke shops, while other smoke shop owners feared it would hurt their businesses.
â€śCigarette smoking is associated with a wide variety of health problems,â€ť said Dr. Stephen Caminiti, who leads Bristol Healthâ€™s pulmonary medicine program.
Smoking causes around 4,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease a year and 150,000 deaths from lung cancer, the doctor said.
â€śItâ€™s the number one cause of death nationwide,â€ť he added.
On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than people who donâ€™t smoke, according to the CDC. For a full listing of the cityâ€™s park rules and ordinances, visit www.bristolrec.com .
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or email@example.com.