Vermont Town Bans Vaping in Certain Public Spaces

The new ordinance passed by the Fair Haven Select Board also applies to smoking and chewing tobacco

A town in Vermont’s Rutland County is about to ban vaping, as well as other tobacco use, in certain busy community spaces.

The peaceful park in the center of Fair Haven will soon be off-limits to folks using e-cigarettes, after a vote from the town’s select board. At its last meeting, the board passed an ordinance banning all tobacco use in parks, and at playgrounds and ballfields.

Many towns have stamped out smoking in public spots, but this goes further to also include vaping.

Nuisance complaints about secondhand smoke and vaping mist at concerts in the park were coming into town administrators, said Joe Gunter, the town manager of Fair Haven.

“The smoking and vaping—it tends to irritate some folks,” Gunter told necn.

Chief Bill Humphries of the Fair Haven Police Department said he, too, has heard feedback from concerned people attending concerts and car shows.

“The vaping is on the rise, and you get a lot of complaints on it,” Humphries said.

The school district is also backing the new restrictions, believing they send an important message. Superintendent Brooke Olsen-Farrell said, anecdotally, as many as 80% of high schoolers in the community are thought to have tried e-cigs at least once or be actively using them.

“I think it elevates the conversation around the epidemic of vaping that we’re facing here at the high school and in our school district,” Olsen-Farrell said of Fair Haven’s newly-approved ordinance. “Just like every other school district across Vermont and the country.”

Humphries said he expects his department will give verbal warnings at first, in an effort to educate the public about the new rules, but the ordinance does call for cash fines.

Tobacco users necn talked to hadn’t yet heard about the Fair Haven ordinance.

“It seems like they’re always trying to make new laws about smoking,” smoker Cathrine Gordon observed.

“That kind of, I guess, violate people’s rights,” Christina Hepburn, another smoker, said of the ordinance. “I mean, it’s people’s choices whether they want to smoke or not.”

Town leaders behind the ban would surely counter that park-goers have rights, too, including to breathe fresh air.

The new ordinance is set to go into effect in December, according to the draft document, unless a petition push were to send it to town voters for approval.

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