Reporter Jackie Majerus wrote this story:
While Bristol Hospital is asking for a municipal ban on smoking on Newell Road, city councilors supportive of the law may take it a step farther and make breathing easier in other publicly owned spaces, too.
Councilor Craig Minor, who chairs the ordinance committee, said he would like for the city to adopt a new law that would allow city councilors to ban smoking in public areas owned by the city.
It takes three or four months to pass an ordinance, said Minor, if things are moving quickly. He said that if the city agreed to ban smoking on Newell Road to accommodate the hospital, it may get more requests for similar action in other areas.
"There are other places in town where smoking is allowed that people are unhappy about," said Minor, who said he's sometimes had to walk through a cloud of smoke to enter the library.
So Minor proposed a law that would allow the Bristol City Council to be able to declare a smoke-free zone on city-owned property where it saw fit.
Other members of the ordinance committee favor it, said Minor, and they've asked Corporation Counsel Dale Clift to write a draft law to show city councilors when they meet on December 11.
There could be a public hearing on the issue late in January, said Minor, at an ordinance committee meeting, with possible adoption by the council in February.
School grounds, the library property, city parks and City Hall property are all possible places where smoking could be banned, said Minor.
Bristol Hospital President Kurt Barwis got the ball rolling when he asked Mayor Art Ward if the city would ban smoking on Newell Road, a short street that dissects hospital property and runs all the way to the hospital's emergency entrance.
Barwis said he once saw city fire trucks racing to the hospital because a smoker deposited a still-burning cigarette into a trash can on the way into the hospital and set it on fire.
That careless act cost not only the time and energy of the emergency responders, but Barwis said people who were trying to enter the hospital were delayed by the commotion.
"It really struck me how wrong it was," said Barwis.
Beyond the ordinance committee, the idea has support.
Ward, who said he marks 12 years as smoke-free next month after breaking a nicotine habit of more than two packs of cigarettes a day, said he "absolutely supports" the city banning smoking from some municipally-owned areas.
"I think they're going to take a look at the city as a whole," Ward said. He said he's especially keen on eliminating the cloud of smoke where children are present.
"It speaks volumes about the city's commitment to youth," said Ward. "We set the example by our actions rather than our words."
City Councilor Ken Cockayne said he is "absolutely" and "100 percent" in favor of the idea of banning smoking on Newell Road.
"I think it's a great idea," said Cockayne, who said he does not smoke now and never has.
State law already prohibits smoking in restaurants and bars in Connecticut as well as public buildings.
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