FARMINGTON – Kids rounding the bases at Hippach Field will soon be breathing a little easier. According to the signs, the recreational grounds are now smoke-free.

Early Thursday morning, representatives from the Healthy Community Coalition and the Farmington Recreation Department converged on Hippach to hang 11 signs throughout the area – near baseball and softball fields, basketball and tennis courts, playground and parking lot – that encouraged people to leave their butts at home.

“The town of Farmington respectfully requests: participants and spectators refrain from the use of tobacco products during all programs and athletic events taking place at Hippach Field,” reads one sign.

Another says, “Tobacco-free zone. We respectfully ask for your support in promoting a safe, healthy environment for our youth.”

“It’s a respectful request; hopefully this will self-police itself,” said Joan Orr of the coalition.

“Adults need to be good role models for our youth, and we need to remind people that when they are in public, people are looking up to them.”

Children of smokers are twice as likely to light up as children of nonsmokers, Orr pointed out. Also, according to the American Lung Association, secondhand smoke causes about 3,000 deaths each year from lung cancer in people who don’t smoke.

“I hope this shows that the norm is to not smoke,” said Nicole Ditita, also of the coalition. She believes the signs will work, and that smokers will think twice before pulling out their packs. “People seem to want to follow the rules and be good examples, this is just a reminder of that.”

Farmington isn’t the only town asking people to quit, at least for the duration of a game. Carrabassett Valley is considering a smoke-free policy at its town recreation center and, several years ago, the coalition worked with Wilton to enact a smoking ban at Kineowatha Park and other small ball fields in town.

At the University of Maine at Farmington, there is even a smoke-free corridor that stretches across campus, in which smoking is prohibited.

Although the new smoke-free zone is not mandated by law, Farmington Parks and Recreation Director Steve Shible hopes people will be respectful of the request.

“I wish I had a nickel for every cigarette butt I’ve found in this park. I don’t think it’s a big problem, but it’s probably long overdue,” he said, adding that if the Hippach program is successful, he may even push to make Meetinghouse Park smoke-free. “Hopefully, the signage will empower nonsmokers who are bothered to finally speak up.”

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