Absurd ordinance would ban smoking in downtown Providence, Rhode Island


© Jeff Nickerson/Wikimedia Commons
Burnside Park

You can already get a ticket if you smoke in Burnside Park or any other city park in Providence. That ordinance was passed six months ago. Next up -- if it passes -- all downtown public spaces.

Businessman and former Mayor Joe Paolino walks the street that rings the south end of Kennedy Plaza, pointing out the discarded cigarette butts that litter the area. In fairness, the ashtrays were removed he says to discourage smoking. But more importantly, it's the secondhand smoke.

"I don't think that the secondhand smoke is healthy for anybody that has to breathe that smoke. And I think we can clean up our city at the same time," Paolino said.

Some agree. Even some smokers. Mark Brier was smoking in Kennedy Plaza when I asked where he would go to smoke if he couldn't smoke outside downtown.

"I'd go to another city. They're getting too expensive anyway," he said.

Frank LaTorre of Riverside would like to see the ordinance passed by saying, "Does someone have a right to put that kind of carcinogen into the air?" I asked him, "What about car exhaust?" He said, "It's a problem too. We're trying to deal with that as well. But you can't do everything. But I think in terms of secondhand smoke, that it's an incredible health hazard."

Some do not agree, like Kelly Masterson of North Providence.

"Just because it's Kennedy Plaza that's where people (smoke)," said said.

She said it's absurd that people who pass by can smell it.

Brandon Cooke of Wakefield is not a fan.

"We live in America, should have a right to freedoms. I mean, maybe they should make smoking sections," he said.

Christina Murphy of Whitesboro, New York, stopping by in Providence on a trip back from Northern New England with a friend, said they both love the city.

"I don't support smoking, that's just my opinion. but I think you should be able to smoke outside the park area," Murphy said.

This particular ordinance, that admittedly would be hard to enforce, only includes downtown outdoor public space, not Federal Hill, Thayer, Wickenden, or any other neighborhood.

"Providence will be at the cutting edge of cities nationally and we'll be probably the first capital city in america to try to get this passed in this downtown, which I think will just be great," Paolino said.

Already three cities in Colorado have outdoor smoking bans, as does Mobile, Alabama; Burlington, Vermont; Burbank, California; and parts of New York and Los Angeles.