Bangor police to start no-smoking warnings

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BANGOR (AP) – Police officers won’t try to set any records writing tickets for motorists who smoke while children are present in their cars, the police chief said days after the city council passed the controversial ordinance.

“I didn’t see us taking an aggressive stance,” Chief Don Winslow said. “Initially we will issue warnings and use it as an educational opportunity. We’re not out to see how many tickets we can get.”

The ordinance, passed Monday night, takes effect next week. The first ordinance of its kind in Maine says motorists who light up when someone under 18 is present can be fined $50. Similar measures are under consideration in several other states.

Winslow said officers will have a flexible approach to enforcing the ordinance early on. The chief said he was surprised the council made the smoking ban a primary offense, meaning an officer can cite someone when there is no other reason to stop the motorist.

It’s not clear who will enforce the ordinance along Interstate 95, which runs through the city of 31,500 people. State troopers, who patrol along I-95, typically don’t enforce city ordinances, said Winslow. But he said he sees nothing wrong with a trooper enforcing the smoking ordinance or telling a Bangor officer if he sees a violation.

Supporters say the ordinance protects children’s health. Critics say it violates personal freedoms and that police should devote their energy to more important issues.

“Congratulations to the Bangor City Council for taking a positive step towards protecting those that cannot speak on their own behalf – the children,” Carry Weston of Bangor wrote on the Bangor Daily News’ Web site.

Amanda Lord, formerly of Bangor and now a North Carolina resident, wrote, “While personal freedom is being restricted more and more, it’s a shame that there is a need for a law like this.”

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