BIDDEFORD (AP) – The days of having a cigarette while relaxing on green faux leather chairs and flicking the ashes in clamshell ashtrays in a secluded area of City Hall are over.

City Manager Edward Clifford ordered the smoking room closed Monday to bring City Hall into compliance with state law. “If it’s state law, it’s state law and we will comply,” Clifford said. “In this day and age, where people won’t be allowed to smoke in bars, it shouldn’t be a big surprise.”

For years, it was common knowledge that residents voted in Wards 1 through 7. “Ward 8” was the place to smoke.

The smoking nook on the spacious third-floor landing of a back stairwell was a haven for employees who needed a cigarette but didn’t want to stand outside in the cold or heat.

Ed Miller, executive director of the American Lung Association of Maine, said it’s unusual to hear of a smoking room in any building anymore, especially a public building.

Under existing state law, a public building like City Hall can legally have a smoking room, as long as it is properly posted and ventilated, according to the American Lung Association of Maine.

Employees say they are not sure when the landing in the back stairwell of City Hall became a smoking area.

Randy Seaver, the editor of a local weekly newspaper, said he’d stop by Ward 8 during his rounds of City Hall to catch up on the news and have a cigarette.

“I found it to be a crucial element in being able to cover City Hall because people had a tendency to be more relaxed in Ward 8,” he said.

There were no phones to disturb a conversation, or intercoms to page someone.

A National Geographic poster of a lioness and her cubs hung on one wall, and a fake Christmas tree in a corner stirred memories of the holiday season.

“It was a good informal meeting place, even for the non-smokers. You could get a lot done,” said Code Enforcement Officer Tim Nelson, who does not smoke.

AP-ES-08-19-03 1019EDT

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