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Danvers state rep takes smoking to the airwaves

By Cathryn Keefe O’Hare/

Danvers – Danvers State  Rep. Ted Speliotis is getting a bit of radio and TV time, as a result of sponsoring a bill that would prohibit people from congregating while smoking within 25 feet of commercial doorways.

Speliotis describes it as having a less draconian effect than some have supposed, which is that it would effectively prohibit smoking in downtowns. The bill, H-2162, would allow smokers to walk along the street, but not to congregate in doorways, he said this week.

He was on Dan Rea’s nighttime talk show on WBZ radio recently and on Emily Rooney’s Greater Boston show on Channel 2 last week, explaining the law.

The issue has been smoldering in Danvers since the Cigars R Us store opened in the Square about five years ago. The bench outside invites the smokers to sit and relax while they smoke. But, some nearby businesses and a number of residents haven’t always been happy about the wall of smoke — nor sometimes the comments from the men.

Town Meeting member John Zavaglia asked Danvers Board of Health in 2006 to prohibit smoking within 25 feet of a public doorway, noting the health hazard it presents to children and to people like his wife, who has asthma. The health board said they had no policing ability, so Zavaglia turned to Town Meeting. When this proposal was snuffed out at the local level back in 2007, he turned to Speliotis for help.

John Palmisano, owner of Goodie’s Ice Cream Shop, and Nick Pasciutto, owner ofGiogi Salon, had said in a March 2007 Danvers Herald interview that they had asked the owner of the Cigars R Us to curtail the smoking, since it bothers their customers.

“It’s a matter of respect,” Palmisano said at the time. “We’ve talked to Frank (Ciampa, the cigar shop owner) before, but nothing changes,” Palmisano said.

Ciampa asked the town for an exception to the indoor smoking law because of its desire to provide a relaxing atmosphere for its customers to enjoy a smoke. No surprise: Not allowed.

So, now the state might chime in on the issue, although a similar bill didn’t ignite any passions in the Legislature last year.

“This is the first year it has really gotten a full-blown hearing,” said Speliotis, who also noted that the responses he has had from the public have “shocked” him because they are almost all in favor of the proposal.

“I am hoping we can get the American Cancer Society and other groups together to support it,” he said.

John Zavaglia praised Speliotis for his support.

“Smoke all you want, but smoke 25 feet from entrances at supermarkets, eating establishments, and other public places so people, but especially children, the elderly, asthmatics and other high-risk individuals don’t have to walk through a wall of smoke,” Zavaglia said.

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