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No smoking law hard to enforce

Transportation center struggles to keep area smoke-free

Recorder/Paul Franz
A person smokes on teh sidewalk in front of the John W Olver Transportation Center in Greenfield.

Recorder/Paul Franz A person smokes on teh sidewalk in front of the John W Olver Transportation Center in Greenfield.

GREENFIELD — Enforcement is still the biggest problem when it comes to smoking in public around town, whether on town-owned land or private property.

Nicole Zabko, the town’s director of public health, said enforcement is “always the issue when you get right down to it.”

“It’s good for the town and private property owners to put policies in place to deal with ‘no smoking’ rules, but the enforcement piece is always the difficult part,” said Zabko.

She said that is so because by the time someone gets to an offender, that person has put out the cigarette.

“I mean, they can put it out when they see us coming, and then what?” said Zabko.

For instance, Franklin Regional Transit Authority on the corner of Bank Row and Olive Street is finding that out.

Tina Cote, FRTA administrator, said the transit authority has had problems with people smoking near the new transit center building lobby entrance and an even more difficult time enforcing FRTA’s rules banning smoking on the property in general.

Cote said the FRTA installed cigarette receptacles on the public sidewalk on Olive Street at the entrance to the transit center, but some people are still lighting up as they get off buses or sit to wait for them.

“We’re doing everything we can to enforce our ‘no smoking’ rule,” said Cote. “It’s difficult because we can’t be out there every minute of every day.”

Cote said she or another staff member try to walk around the property during the peak hours of 9 a.m., noon, 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., but have had a couple of contentious confrontations with people when asking them to put out their cigarettes. She said FRTA has had to call police during those incidents.

Cote said police cannot enforce FRTA’s “no smoking” rule, but can intervene when someone feels threatened by a contentious smoker.

Zabko said the town hasn’t had to call police to deal with any of those types of incidents, but is having similar problems getting people to stop smoking where they are not supposed to on town property.

“Police won’t be able to enforce the town’s ‘no smoking’ rule unless we hire a specific person to do so,” said Zabko. “Otherwise, it’s a matter of catching someone and fining them. That’s about all we can do.”

History

In 2004, Massachusetts banned smoking in workplaces, restaurants and bars in all cities and towns throughout the state.

Three years later, Greenfield banned smoking in private clubs and in Veterans Memorial Mall on Main Street.

The town expanded its ban in 2011 to within 25 feet of the entrance to any town building, 100 feet from any of the town’s parks and playgrounds, and 25 feet from the beach at Green River Swimming and Recreation Area.

The Education Reform Act also banned smoking on public school property.

“Those areas can’t be patrolled by anyone all day long,” said Zabko. “We have to hope that people respect the signage and that citizens feel empowered to say something if someone decides to light up on a playground, for example.”

If someone is caught smoking on town-owned land, the ordinance allows for a written warning for the first offense and a fine of $150 for second and subsequent offenses.

Cote said the FRTA has posted “no smoking” signs throughout the inside and outside of the transit center building and on its buses.

“We’re doing all we can,” she said. “We’re talking to a lawyer to see if there is anything else we can do. We have to think about the riders with allergies or who are on oxygen. It’s so disrespectful of people to light up when asked not to.”

Cote said she and her staff will go just so far to try to stop someone determined to light up.

“I don’t want to put anyone in jeopardy,” she said.

Cote said she has sent out requests on Facebook, as well.

“When you ask some people to stop, they accuse you of violating their rights,” said Cote. “I just don’t know what the solution is.”

Cote said that most of the time people comply, and Zabko said the same.

“I think this will continue to be a struggle, though,” said Zabko.

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