Tobacco-free parks and recreation facilities pass first reading

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Wednesday, August 29, 2012

There are a lot of buts in the way of making the Greer city-owned parks and recreation facilities tobacco-free.

Councilwoman Judy Albert (District 6) took the opportunity to revisit a hot button topic at city council tonight, asking for a blanket tobacco-free ordinance making it unlawful for any person to smoke or otherwise use tobacco products in/on any cit-owned or city-leased recreation facility or park.

And to add fuel to the white-hot issue, the proposed ordinance would include prohibiting tobacco products within 25-feet of any city-owned or facility previously mentioned. Don’t think about smoking in the privacy of your vehicle in a playground parking lot, even with your windows up. That, too, would be a no-no and enforceable under the proposed ordinance.

Don’t think that this ordinance will go up in smoke, either. City Council passed it 4-2 in its first reading. Wayne Griffin (District 2), Kimberly Bookert (District 3), Albert and Mayor Rick Danner voted for the ordinance. Jay Arrowood (District 1) and Lee Dumas (District 4) opposed it.  Wryley Bettis (District 5) was absent.

Virtually everybody had something to say or was asked their thoughts. All council members, City Administrator Ed Driggers, Parks and Recreation Supervisor Ann Cunningham and Police Chief Dan Reynolds provided guidance or comments.

Albert was given the floor to explain why the present ordinance, with designated smoking areas away from the public, were not good enough. “I think it’s the right direction to bring the city up to date to what is happening in our counties and our state. It makes the parks and recreation areas cleaner and it’s better for our health. I feel like it’s time to make a smoke-free environment at our parks.”

Dumas said, “This resolution brings more policing and authority into play.”

That’s when Reynolds was asked what role police could play in enforcing the proposed ordinance. “We would ask the person to put out his (cigarette) and if he didn’t we would tell him he would be arrested. That usually would do it.”

Reynolds, upon questioning, said violators of the ordinance could be charged with disorderly conduct and fined $500-$1,000.

Cunningham said, “The designated smoking areas are away from play. It (smoking) applies to anything that is a gathering of people. We direct people to the appropriate areas. Our policy has been in place two years and this has not been an issue.”

Dumas brought some humor into some pointed discussions. “I had a coach accomplish one of the greatest things I ever saw – he chewed, dipped and smoked, all at the same time.” The room filled with laughter.

“I don’t have a problem with smoking as long as the designated area is there. I think the policy already states that,” Dumas said.

Danner, for the second straight meeting, had to restore calm among council members when the debate became “philosophical”.

Arrowood and Griffin, sitting next to each other, sparred with opposing views on adopting a tobacco-free ordinance and the 25-foot extension from city-owned parks and recreation facilities.

“That ordinance would ban smoking across the street from the park at the furniture (Mutual Home Store at Poinsett and Cannon) store,” Arrowood said. “Now you’re getting into public property and private property. You can’t tell private businesses they can’t smoke on their property.”

Griffin agreed with the proposed 25-foot extension from city-owned parks. “Second-hand smoke hurts other people. We’ve told our employees they couldn’t smoke because it would cost them more (insurance premiums). If people want to smoke, I say let them smoke. Just do it away from city property.”

Albert said cigarettes and other tobacco products are consumed in public places and discarded on the grounds requiring city staff to provide maintenance for upkeep and to protect the health and safety of the citizens and visitors.

Nobody asked Driggers how much it would cost the city for new signage and the removal of smoking containers at the 20 locations around the city. “I ran the numbers and it would be $51,000,” Driggers said.


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