Saturday November 17, 2012

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- The state Department of Health says a survey the department commissioned earlier this year shows that Vermonters are increasingly seeking greater restrictions on smoking in outdoor public places.

The results, released by the department on Thursday, found that 95 percent of Vermonters would either ban or limit smoking at building entrances -- 80 percent said ban, while 15 percent said limit. Eighty-one percent of respondents said they supported banning smoking in vehicles when children are present.

Ban or limit

A majority of people, 51 percent, said they favor limiting smoking at parks, beaches and outdoor markets, while 29 percent favor an outright ban on smoking at those locations.

"The dangers of secondhand smoke are well understood and smoke-free policies are now widely accepted. This is good news for the health of Vermonters," Health Commissioner Harry Chen said.

The Bennington Select Board considered a smoking ban in town parks in May 2009 after a group of students asked the board to do so. The board ultimately declined to pass an ordinance. Instead, the town posted signs at Willow Park asking people to refrain from smoking in some areas. There is no enforcement, however.

Select Board Chairman Joseph L. Krawczyk Jr. said the town has not received additional complaints about smoking at the park since the signs were posted.

Select Board member Jason Morrissey raised concerns about smoking on the grounds of the town's recreation center last November. The board asked town staff to prepare a list of town buildings where smoking could potentially be banned or limited.

Town Manager Stuart A. Hurd said a list has been prepared but has not been presented to the board. He said enforcing such bans is difficult.

The telephone survey of more than 400 Vermonters was conducted by ICF Macro for the Vermont Department of Health in April.