Winston-Salem council to discuss smoking ban in parks

The general government committee of Winston-Salem City Council, which is chaired by Councilman Dan Besse, meets at 6 p.m. (For those interested in attending, the meeting takes place in Room 239 of City Hall, located at 101 N. Main St.)

The most significant item on the agenda, from what I can tell, is a discussion about whether the city built by Big Tobacco should ban smoking in public parks.

From a memo to council members from Recreation and Parks Director Timothy A. Grant:

We were asked to investigate prohibiting smoking at playgrounds in city parks. We polled other municipalities and counties in North Carolina and found many different regulations regarding smoking/tobacco use in parks. Although there appear to be many different policies and regulations, there is a genuine consensus that many communities want to prevent youth from using tobacco, eliminate exposure to second-hand smoke, and reduce litter and harmful environmental effects of tobacco products. These prohibition regulations can be categorized into three major areas, all of which would require the posting of signs and enforcement.  

The first application has been the creation of "tobacco free zones" at venues that provide programs for children. These areas include playgrounds and adjacent areas, ball fields, recreation centers and other areas that children frequent. Some of these bans designate a particular distance allowed from the activity area.

The second application is a full ban on tobacco products in all park locations. This would possibly reduce litter, eliminate environmental hazards, and discourages tobacco use among youth by providing healthy role models. The primary justification for this stance is that if you allow tobacco use in parks, you are implying approval, if not endorsement. Therefore, restricting its usage sends a message that parks promote healthy environments for all parks patrons.

The third application is to only allow tobacco use in parking lots within a park location. These areas are the only locations that citizens could use any tobacco product in a city park. Parking lots are generally easy to distinguish, and most parks have at least one parking lot. This regulation seems to be the most adaptive and practical consideration for most to consider.

At this point, staff is seeking direction from the city council regarding the next steps. Currently, this is not a major issue within the park system. Enforcement at special use facilities wi9ll have to be discussed if any regulation is considered. If this is something that city council wishes to pursue, an item could be presented to the recreation and parks commission for its consideration. I am available to discuss this matter with you should you have questions.

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