OXFORD – Oxford Fair’s attempt to go smoke free is a “work in progress,” said Ken Morse of Healthy Oxford Hills.

Tired of cleaning up hundreds of cigarette butts every night and concerned about the effects of secondhand smoke on fairgoers, both organizations teamed up last year to promote what is being billed as a smoke-free event, but in reality is an event with designated smoking areas.

“It will make a big difference over time,” Morse said. “It’s a work in progress.”

Although the fair program sports a gold sticker reading “now a smoke-free event” and billboards are posted throughout the fair announcing, “This is a smoke free area. Breathe easy, you’re in Maine,” fair President Suzanne Grover said she has no intention of asking people to put out their cigarettes.

She has, however, provided designated smoking areas to redirect where people smoke.

Morse said the smoke-free initiative started last year, but that effort only reached 30 or 40 percent of the fairgoers so far.

“One of our objectives is to make environments smoke free, especially as more information comes out about the dangers of secondhand smoke,” Morse said.

The Norway-based organization is working to make recreation sites in the area, like local playing fields, smoke free.

“I talked to Suzanne (Grover) two years ago, and she said she was very interested in doing that,” Morse said. “Her issue was the mess. They spend a lot of time picking up butts.”

With signs supplied by the state, the effort began in 2007. “We put a lot up last year but we’re only part way there,” Morse said. “This year we put up more signs and I’m in the process of putting 10,000 little stickers on programs that say this is a smoke-free event.”

Morse said he believes the stickers are a big step toward 100 percent compliance. He hopes to see close to 80 percent compliance this year.

“It’s a great idea,” said Jeannette Gilmore, whose husband, Bud, owns Smokey’s Greater Shows. “No one needs that secondhand smoke.”

Gilmore said that workers in the midway show know their policy of no smoking while working the rides. “But I can’t police them,” she said.

The Oxford Fair is not the only fair in Maine to think about banning smoking.

“From time to time there has been discussion about banning smoking on the midway but we haven’t yet,” said Mike Dyer, director of Bass Park in Bangor, which runs the Bangor State Fair.

That fair, which celebrated its 159th season in August, prohibits smoking in buildings and under tents, as mandated by state law, and prohibited smoking in the barns about 15 years ago, Dyer said.

“It was a safety issue first and foremost,” he said.

Roy Anderson, president of the Fryeburg Fair, which starts its 158th year Sept. 28, said there has not been much discussion about banning smoking on the midway simply because he feels it would be too difficult to police.

“I don’t smoke personally, but it’s a hard thing to control,” Anderson said. “It’s very difficult,” he said of the effort it would take to stop the estimated 50,000 daily fairgoers and some 600 employees at the fairgrounds each year.

Workers and others at the Oxford Fair on Wednesday said they were not aware of the where designated smoking areas are.

“No one said anything,” said Don Farmington of Machias, who runs a food stand. “They just go between the two buildings to smoke.”

Farmington, who said he doesn’t smoke, said going smoke-free will not be easy.

Although Farmington said the policy makes sense, he said he would be concerned that people would not be willing to spend $10 to come to the fair and not be allowed to smoke.

A few smokers had mixed reactions.

“I’d have a big problem,” said a man from Gorham who declined to give his name as he started to light up a cigarette under a small open merchandise tent.

Another woman, who also declined to identify herself as she took a drag on a cigarette in the midway, said she would have no problem with smoking in a designated area.

“We aren’t there yet,” Grover said.

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