DERRY — A local mother's recent encounter with a smoker at a playground sparked a discussion by town councilors of a possible public smoking ban.
"We like to go out to be healthy, get fresh air, get some exercise — so this really just seems counterproductive when we are exposed to second-hand smoke," Nicole Bump said during Tuesday night's public forum session of the council meeting.
Bump said she took her two children to Hood Park over the past weekend. At the swings, she said she encountered a woman who was pushing her children on the swings while smoking a cigarette. Bump said she had to tell her children they couldn't use the swings because of her fear they would be exposed to the second-hand smoke.
"Try telling that to a 2–year old who wants to use the swings," Bump said.
Before coming to Tuesday's meeting, Bump said she spoke to Councilor Al Dimmock about second-hand smoke at playgrounds; Dimmock had told her smoking isn't allowed at public schools or school playgrounds.
"To me, it only makes sense that we would extend that protection to our children at our current parks and playgrounds as well," Bump said.
Dimmock, who smoked cigarettes for 45 years and quit 10 years ago, thanked Bump for speaking. The councilor mentioned his own experience with smoking, adding that second-hand smoke affected his wife, who never smoked.
"My wife has never had a cigarette, and still I hear her hacking because of my smoking," Dimmock said. "So remember when you light up a cigarette, it's not you who you are affecting, it's the people around you."
Dimmock pointed out that smoking isn't allowed within 45 feet of the Derry Municipal Center.
He said the council has a right to say "they'll be no smoking on any town property."
But some councilors were hesitant to go that far.
Mark Osborne said it might be feasible to consider a ban within approximately 35 feet of playground equipment when it's "reasonably perceived a child would be using it."
He added, "At the same time, I want to be very clear — I don't want Derry to turn into the anti-smoking Gestapo."
Osborne said the council needs to take into consideration adults who pay taxes and would like to be able to enjoy smoking while going on a walk in the park.
"I just don't want to go off the rail here, and this discussion seems like it's going there quick."
Another resident, Kelly Martin came to the microphone and said while it's OK to consider a smoking ban for certain designated areas in town, she opposes a general public smoking ban.
"But let's not forget we live in New Hampshire — Live Free or Die — and I don't want this to become Cambridge (Mass.)," Martin said. "We moved out of Massachusetts for the freedoms that New Hampshire provides its citizens."
Councilors took no action, but said they might hold a future discussion on the topic.