PORTLAND — They’re on the sidewalks, on the streets and in the cracks between the cobblestones.

The sight of cigarette butts, seemingly everywhere, is one of the most common complaints from tourists who visit Portland.

City officials hope the threat of a $100 fine will get smokers to kick the habit of flicking their butts on the ground.

“(Tourists) come here expecting it to be this pristine city on the sea,” said Jan Beitzer, executive director of Portland’s Downtown District, who’s leading an effort to get cigarette butts off the streets.

The City Council amended Portland’s littering ordinance Monday night to include tobacco products among the trash that’s illegal to throw away on public property. The change, including the $100 fine, will take effect March 7.

Eric Conrad, spokesman for the Maine Municipal Association, said he is unaware of any other community in the state that specifically prohibits littering of cigarette butts.

For the most part, smokers in downtown Portland on Tuesday said it’s a good thing.

“It’s making the downtown look nasty,” Felicia Williford, 24, said of the littered cigarette butts. She said she always throws hers in a trash can.

Nicholas Fitzpatrick, who has smoked for most of his 51 years, said he usually throws his butt in a trash can but gets lazy about it when he’s walking around the city. If no one else tossed their butts, he’d stop, too, he said.

That’s an attitude that Public Services Director Michael Bobinsky hopes to see catch on.

“Patrons have some responsibility to take care of items such as cigarette butts,” he said.

Portland’s Downtown District pays Bobinsky’s department to clean the streets and sidewalks downtown daily. One problem with cigarette butts is that they get caught in hard-to-sweep places, like the cracks between the cobblestones.

The Public Services Department has bought a vacuum-like attachment for one of its sidewalk tractors to suck butts out of the cracks. Bobinsky said the department will start using the new equipment within a couple of weeks.

That’s one way Beitzer hopes to cut down on the complaints from tourists. She said the only complaint she hears more is about the city’s graffiti.

In the spring, Portland’s Downtown District will launch a campaign touting the environmental and aesthetic reasons not to litter cigarette butts.

The campaign, to be funded with a $1,000 grant from the national nonprofit group Keep America Beautiful, will include signs on trash cans throughout the city and outreach through social media.

Some smokers said Tuesday that they shy away from using trash cans because they’re afraid of starting a fire. Others said there simply aren’t enough trash cans around.

Beitzer said there’s a trash can on every block — 160 in all — in downtown Portland. “We’re fully covered,” she said.

It doesn’t feel that way to Amber Wellington, 28, who throws her butts on the sidewalk if she’s walking around.

“There isn’t really anywhere better to put them,” she said.

Wellington said she thinks the new ordinance is fair but it won’t completely change her habits. She just won’t flick a cigarette in front of a police officer.

Technically, the amendment wasn’t needed for an officer to cite someone under the littering ordinance, which now prohibits “any garbage” from being discarded on public property. But Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said that hasn’t been the department’s practice.

“Now, it’s much clearer for everyone involved,” he said.

Officers won’t be put on special assignment to seek out smokers who violate the law, but it’s something they will keep an eye out for, Sauschuck said.

Cory Weaver, 24, said he doesn’t need a law to feel obligated to throw his cigarette butts in the trash, just as he chooses to recycle.

“It’s a lifestyle choice,” he said. “Just like smoking.”


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