RUMFORD — Two days after Roxbury selectmen last week OK’d a more restrictive tobacco-free policy for town employees, Rumford selectmen followed suit.
Rumford already had a policy banning smoking in and around municipal buildings. But the new policy adopted Thursday also bans smokeless tobacco products within town-owned or leased buildings, vehicles, equipment, or on town-owned or leased properties.
It also prohibits non-employees and visitors from smoking on town-leased or owned property.
Town Manager Carlo Puiia told selectmen that the new policy is modeled after last year’s change in Maine smoking laws to provide a safe and healthy work and public environment.
“There was new legislation last year that has prompted towns to redo their smoking policies,” Puiia said. “Now it’s illegal to smoke in town vehicles. It also includes smokeless tobacco use in a vehicle and on town-owned property.”
“A guy plowing the streets all night can’t smoke or chew tobacco?” Selectman Greg Buccina asked Puiia.
“They can do it on their break but not in the vehicle,” Puiia said.
“Well, I think that stinks,” Buccina said.
“Can you smoke in the mill?” Board Chairman Brad Adley asked of Buccina, who is employed by Rumford paper mill NewPage.
“No,” Buccina said.
After more discussion, Buccina said the town has had a no-smoking policy since 2005, but asked where the enforcement is of people waiting outside for court and smoking and leaving their cigarette butts behind.
“What’s the sense of a policy like this when you can’t enforce it?” he asked.
That’s when Selectman Jeff Sterling pointed out a paragraph in the new policy states: “Non-employees and visitors who are smoking on town-leased or owned property will be approached by a town of Rumford employee and asked to either extinguish their tobacco, cease to use it, or to go off of town property.”
“Right,” Puiia said. “I’ve received numerous complaints about young people or people I should say, hanging out outside the library and smoking, and it discourages or it intimidates or it makes the person who wants to enter the library uneasy. Again, it relates back to promoting a healthy lifestyle.”
Puiia then gave the board an out, telling them that if they felt they didn’t want such a restrictive policy, they could table a decision until Puiia modified the document.
“This was actually the most restrictive of all the (state) templates, but in my opinion, if you’re going to do something like this, why not go all the way?” Puiia asked.
Sterling said his only objection was the “will be” in the paragraph he read.
“’Will be,’ that means it’s required, right?” he asked. “For any town employee, if you see it, you have to stop. Do we want to make all town employees the ‘Tobacco Police?’ Because that’s what it boils down to.”
Sterling said the rest of the policy was fine, but he didn’t like the “will” and suggested changing it to “may.”
He then motioned to approve the new policy, but change the wording in that paragraph from “will” to “may,” and the document was unanimously approved.