City committee considers park smoking ordinance

Thursday, July 11, 2019

On Monday night’s meeting of the city Finance, Utilities, Property and Recreation Committee, committee members where approached about smoking in public parks and offered a way to help cut down on it. Lindsay Sadorf, a tobacco prevention specialist for Dawson County, informed the committee that she would like to have signs posted in the public parks that prohibit smoking in those spaces.

The signs would be provided to the city free of charge by the state, according to Sadorf.

“I spend a lot of time at the park and we see a lot of these tiny little discarded cartridges,” Sadorf said as she presented a discarded nicotine cartridge to the council. “The reason I thought this was so interesting was that if a toddler or an infant were to pick one of these up, they could die of an overdose of nicotine and they’re being discarded everywhere.”

Sadorf also provided the committee members with two possible designs for what the signs could look like. Each of them would ban the use of nicotine and related products in as a general a way as possible because, as Sadorf noted, it’s hard to know what the next big smoking product will be.

“JUULing and vaping are all the same thing, there are about 75 things you could call it but it all boils down to the same thing so they kind of generalize all the smoking devices,” Sadorf said. “It’s so hard to know what people are going to do or what’s going to be the next big thing.”

She added that the current thing tobacco companies are trying to promote is “heat not burn” products that heat nicotine rather than burn it to create an aerosol that contains nicotine and other chemicals. She also provided other examples of how tobacco companies try to attract new customers, such as selling sweet scented products, and how kids can easily hide some of these electronic smoking devices on their person.

Overall, the committee members seemed in agreement that the signs could be beneficial and they could easily be installed onto existing structures in the parks. However, posting the signs may be against city ordinance.

Not being sure if city ordinances said anything about smoking, Mayor Jerry Jimison took a quick look at city records and didn’t find any mention of prohibiting smoking in public parks.

“I hurriedly looked through our city codes and I see nothing that would limit or prohibit the use of tobacco in our city parks, so we do not have a tobacco ordinance at the present time,” Jimison said.

Jimison recommended the issue go to the city’s ordinance committee so that they may research what other towns have done so that they may draft a policy. Sadorf noted that she has a model policy that she is willing to share with the committee.

Committee members Gerald Reichert and Mike Dryden noted that it will take some time for it to go from a proposal to an actual policy, however the proposal does have support.

“It sounds like everybody here is in support but unfortunately it will be a process,” Dryden noted.

The next ordinance committee meeting will be July 22. The next meeting of the full city council will be July 16.

Also discussed at the FUPR meeting, committee member Avis Anderson told the committee that she would like to see something done to encourage people to inform the city when they plan to host events in public spaces.

For events such as birthday parties and picnics in public spaces, it is not required to reserve that space with the city, however informing the city can get your event added to the community calender and help avoid any confusion or complications with other groups that want to use the same space for a different event. These are issues that have happened in the past.

Reach Hunter Herbaugh at rrreporter@rangerreview.com .

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