The Providence City Council Ordinance Committee has voted to send a downtown smoking ban to the full council. The ordinance would prohibit smoking in a roughly nine-block area in front of Kennedy Plaza and City Hall.
Community advocates say the policy is targeted at the homeless. That’s because they say previous bans on smoking in nearby park and bus terminals have pushed homeless onto the surrounding sidewalks.
“It’s important to keep in mind that one of the reasons homeless people are smoking where they are now, because the city passed another ordinance that was designed to get them out of Burnside Park by banning smoking there,” said Steve Brown, head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island.
Supporters of the ban say smoking on the heavily trafficked downtown sidewalks is a public health hazard. Steve Brown, head of the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, says he understands arguments that banning smoking is good for public health.”
“But this type of approach, banning a particular area for smoking that we know is used by homeless people really strikes us as unfair, and ultimately counter-productive,” said Brown.
Violators of the ordinance could face a $50 fine.