BRUNSWICK — Smokers will have to think twice about lighting up in downtown Brunswick because of a public-smoking ban passed by the Town Council on Monday.

Cigarettes for sale at Jenney Station, a longtime tobacco shop on Brunswick’s Maine Street. Hannah LaClaire/The Times Record

The ordinance prohibits smoking and vaping between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. along Maine Street from Bath Road to the Androscoggin River; within 20 feet of school or public bus stops; within 20 feet of town-owned facilities and grounds, including sidewalks; all parks including the mall and Parks and Recreation-owned or operated facilities.

The penalty is a verbal warning for the first offense, and if the person violates the rule again within 90 days of the warning, they can be charged with a civil violation that comes with a fine up to $50, according to the ordinance.

According to America’s Health Rankings by the United Health Foundation, smoking in Maine has decreased 15 percent in the past five years, dropping from 20.3 percent of adults to 17.3 percent.

According to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 18 percent of high school students use electronic smoking devices or e-cigarettes, nearly twice the number who smoke cigarettes. The department estimates that the tobacco industry costs Maine about $1.5 billion each year in “lost productivity” and healthcare costs.

Brunswick’s ordinance comes at a time when Maine is tightening restrictions on tobacco use and sales. Last month, Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill making it a crime for adults over 21 to give or offer anyone under that age any type of tobacco product. Maine raised the smoking age to 21 in 2017.

Brunswick Councilors Steve Walker and James Mason opposed the ordinance, saying they had concerns about the greater implications of the ordinance and about enforcement.

“I’m happy our downtown is getting cleaner, but it’s one more step toward the gentrification of downtown,” Walker said, adding that while he is not a fan of breathing secondhand smoke, there are “socio-economic implications” of the ordinance.

Councilor Dan Ankeles agreed and said it raised concerns about it “being a way to sweep away certain types of people from downtown,” even if that was not the original intention of the proposal. He proposed an amendment striking the downtown section of the ordinance.

“We’re still making strong gains for public health in this town,” he said. “I do not want clouds of secondhand smoke to surround everyone (but) I have real concerns about going that far that soon.”

The amendment failed and the rules were passed as written.

“We’re talking about public health here,” said Councilor Jane Millett, who, along with Kathy Wilson, proposed the smoking restrictions. “Our rights (as nonsmokers) trump a small percentage of people who want to smoke and blow it out amid the public,” she said.

Jerry Bernier has owned Jenney Station, a Maine Street tobacco shop, for almost 25 years. He said Tuesday that he believes the new rules will anger the public. While he hasn’t not smoked in over 30 years, he respects the rights of people to do so, and that the council should “leave it alone.”

“The more the media gets after (smoking), the bigger the problem gets,” he said. “For every one that quits, five take their place.”

Bernier does not think the new ordinance will affect his business, and that to his knowledge people can still smoke inside smoke shops, but that the council never talked to him about it. He foresees problems with enforcement, he said, when police have a hard enough time stopping underaged people from smoking.

Several councilors brought up enforcement concerns at Monday night’s meeting. Police Chief Richard Rizzo told the council that violations of the smoking ordinance will be treated similarly to traffic violations, which people can appeal in front of a judge.

Mason said he was concerned that contesting these tickets would tie up time for police officers and ultimately cost the town, although Rizzo said there was the potential to get some money back, unlike when an officer goes to court to testify in a criminal proceeding.

Overall, while it will be a relatively low priority for the department, Rizzo said it comes down to a “quality of life thing.” They will enforce it when they can, he said, especially in the case of a complaint.

Deb King, executive director of the Brunswick Downtown Association said she thought it was fair that the ordinance is only in effect during the day, and will allow patrons or employees of bars and restaurants to smoke outside at night. She also agrees with the verbal warning before a fine concept, and echoing a statement from Councilor Dan Jenkins, said she thought putting out signs might have an effect as people tend to self govern.

Overall, she is pleased the no-tobacco policy is in place.

“We hold many events downtown, so we appreciate the ordinance, especially with lots of kids and families running around,” she said. “The anti-smoking campaign has been around for many many years, so this isn’t anything surprising.”

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