MILLINOCKET -- Members of the Millinocket Recreation Commission, in conjunction with the Katahdin Region Strategic Vision Committee, asked the town council to consider a ban on smoking within park and recreation fields and facilities, but suggested that this move would be only a start.
"While it's not a complete ban, it's a start," said Jane McGillicuddy, who identified herself as the project director for the Katahdin Area Partnership, also known as the "vision committee."
Using an argument that has worked well for tobacco prohibitionists everywhere, McGillicuddy said that it was for the children.
"When kids see adults smoking, it tells them that it's okay to use tobacco," she said. "It's about the kids," she added. "It's about the children."
She also pointed to the Strategic Vision for the Katahdin Region, written on September 12, 2003, and accepted unanimously by the council earlier in the meeting.
McGillicuddy pointed out that the "vision statement" includes the following:
Our citizens live in a safe and healthy environment ... Health is supported at the individual and community levels. We value health and wellness and provide opportunities for healthy living.
"That's what we're trying to do," she said.
She argued that it wouldn't be an imposition on most of the people in the area, saying that 75% of the population does not smoke.
This prompted a question from Councilor John Davis.
"If 75% of the people don't smoke," he asked, "are those that do all congregating in these areas smoking?"
"When that mill is running," Davis added, "it's spitting stuff out of the stack that's probably a lot worse than cigarette smoke, and I don't think we'll be asking for an ordinance to shut that mill down."
Davis said that he would vote against any such ordinance.
"When (McGillicuddy) said that this was not a complete ban, but a start, that's scary," he said. "I will not support this ordinance."
Councilor Jimmy Busque also said that he would vote against a smoking ban, as did Councilor Donald McLaughlin
McLaughlin was outspoken in his opposition to a prohibition on smoking.
"This country was not founded on the common good," said McLaughlin. "It was founded on the rights of individuals."
"I am adamantly opposed," he added. "I will have nothing to do with this." McLaughlin said that his opposition had nothing to do with the school.
"I have a problem with people trying to get me to vote one way by dragging children into it," he said. "Whenever they want you to vote in a way they don't think you'll vote, they bring children into it."
"We, this country, and our state, has no right to regulate the lives of the American citizen. I've read the Federalist Papers extensively, the writings of Jefferson, Madison and Monroe. If these gentlemen were here today they'd probably start another revolution."
"Some people just don't get it," he added.
Councilor Gail Fanjoy said that she was probably going to be the swing vote on this issue, explaining that she was in favor of the end result, but not the vehicle for getting there.
"I don't think an ordinance is the way to get there," she said. "I don't think we should be legislating smoking. Passing an ordinance is not going to stop kids from smoking."
Councilor David Nelson spoke in favor of the proposed ban.
"Change occurs at the population level and not at the individual level," he said, apparently in response to argument in favor of the rights of the individual. "This (the smoking ban) provides a tangible result from the vision conference," he added.
Councilor Matt Polstein also supported the ban on smoking, saying that this provides an opportunity to protect the health of children.
Addressing the council, Keith Ober, superindent of schools, asked if the absence of a policy prohibiting smoking on property that (the council) has control of was consistent with the vision that (the council) supported.
"There is also the conflict of the modeling of behavior when there are a lot of students present," Ober said. "If the school district is trying to put out a message that says, 'Thou shalt not smoke,' and parents are participating in that particular habit, it's a mixed message."
As a reason for his support of a ban on smoking in park and recreation areas, Chairman Avern Danforth said, "It's the children."
Bryant Davis, a citizen, asked what's next. "There are a lot of things that are bad for us," he said. "Are we going to regulate them all?"
Ken Anderson spoke in opposition to the suggested ban. Identifying himself as someone who hasn't smoked in more than thirty years, he said that this country was founded on principles of individual rights.
"I think that it would be a very big step in the wrong direction if we were to pass this ordinance," he said.
No action was taken at this time.
The list of facilities and fields that would be included in the proposed smoking ban are as follows:
- Hillcrest Playground
- Little Italy Playground
- Pines Playground
- Pamola Playground
- Jerry Pond Playground
- Recreation Complex, including the area by the swimming pool
- Veteran's Memorial Park, including the bandstand
- Great Northern Park, beside the municipal building
- Kermit Crandall Park
- Little League Field