The Church Street Marketplace, a popular outdoor pedestrian mall in Burlington, Vermont, will ban smoking and the use of electronic cigarettes starting Wednesday, December 17. The move, approved by the city council and signed by the mayor, could bring $50 or $100 fines if smokers light up on the marketplace.
"Hopefully, there won't be that many tickets issued at the end of the day," said Chief Mike Schirling of the Burlington Police Dept., explaining his hope that new banners and verbal warnings will help change behavior in a friendly way. "I think this is a great step in the right direction in terms of the safety and health of one of the most vibrant cities in the nation."
Smoking will still be allowed on side streets in downtown Burlington after this week's rule change, just not on the Church Street Marketplace. "One thousand people a year in Vermont die from tobacco," said Tracy Dolan of the Vermont Health Dept., noting that she would like to see this change encourage smokers to quit.
Smokers New England Cable News talked to said the move is unnecessary. "I'm already respectful with it," said smoker Heather Dunn. "If I see kids coming, I'll just step to the side and get out of their way so they're not walking through a cloud of smoke."
Tyler Nolan, another smoker, suggested the rule could be seen as discriminatory. "Where do we have our rights to smoke outside?" he asked.
Backers of the ban said many merchants on the destination street are on board with the decision, because it should make Church Street more pleasant for shoppers and diners.
However, Colby Curtis at Garcia's Tobacco Shop said he fears a big revenue loss, with fewer travelers able to pick up a cigar for a summertime stroll up Church Street. Curtis said he wonders if the move is a back-door attempt to discourage loitering or panhandling. "Instead of dealing with that issue at its core, they're sort of sweeping it off the streets," Curtis told NECN.
Joan Shannon, a Democrat who serves as president of the Burlington City Council, insisted that is not the case, telling reporters at a news conference that the ban is not discriminatory and is all about public health and comfort.
The latest news from around the state
"Church Street will now be a healthier environment for everyone," Shannon said. "Those who smoke are still welcome on Church Street, we just ask that people refrain from smoking while you're here."
For information on quitting smoking, visit the Vermont Department of Health website.