Providence: 134 fines since downtown smoking ban took effect

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence police have handed out more than 100 fines since an ordinance banning the use of all tobacco-related products in part of downtown took effect in June.

Lindsay Lague, a spokesperson for the Providence Police Department, said police have issued 334 official warnings and 134 fines over the last five months. The first violation of the ordinance comes with a warning and all subsequent violations carry a $50 fine.

Lague said the department has created a database that tracks individuals who have received warnings from the police. She said the ordinance has been effective.

“The ordinance is working and the warnings have calmed down from the beginning,” Lague said.

The ordinance prohibits the use of tobacco products on the streets that surround Kennedy Plaza and Burnside Park – where smoking is already banned – including Fulton Street, Dorrance Street, Francis Street, Exchange Terrace, Exchange Street and Memorial Boulevard. It also includes a small part of Westminster Street, near the Superman Building.

The City Council backed the ban even after Mayor Jorge Elorza called it a “bad policy that will prove difficult to enforce and it will be ineffective at addressing the real issue.” Elorza attempted to block the ordinance, but council leaders secured the 10 votes necessary to override his veto.

Former Mayor Joseph Paolino, who owns millions of dollars’ worth of real estate downtown, was the leading supporter of the ordinance and actively lobbied for council members to approve it. (He was not a registered lobbyist on the matter, but the city’s lobbying ordinance does not require individuals who aren’t compensated to disclose their advocacy efforts.)

Paolino said he is encouraged by the results to date. He said he’s confident downtown will see fewer individuals smoking as they become aware of the ordinance.

“It’s been very helpful and as time goes on, it’s going to be even better,” he said.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan