After two votes and a mayoral veto, it turns out that there was enough support to enact a smoking ban of one of Providence, R.I.’s most trafficked downtown areas.
On Thursday night, the council voted to override Mayor Jorge Elorza’s veto, despite criticisms that the vote not only unfairly targets the homeless and low-income population of Providence, but would tax the city’s police force and strain the relationship between the police and the public.
The ban prohibits the use of all tobacco products and electronic smoking devices in the Kennedy Plaza and Burnside Park areas, as well as throughout the surrounding neighborhood, though private residences are exempt. Violators would be subject to a warning on their initial violation before being hit with a $50 fine for a second offense.
The council approved the ban by a 10-3 vote at its first reading, but that tally changed to 8-5 at its second reading, suggesting that an override could be in jeopardy, as 10 votes are needed to override a veto.
As promised, the mayor vetoed the bill in early June, calling it a target on the homeless community and a waste of the police department’s resources, as well as simply ineffective. He went on to say that the ban created a counterproductive situation where visitors and tourists who unknowingly light up on the wrong sidewalk would be ticketed.
The ordinance was scheduled to take effect upon passage.
Providence is the capital of Rhode Island and home to roughly 180,000 people.