During a July 2018 meeting, representatives from the Delaware General Health District and the City Parks and Recreation Advisory Board proposed a ban on smoking and the use of tobacco products in city parks. Specifically, instances of adults smoking during ball games were cited as the source of complaints.
An all-out ban was met with skepticism by council members, and at last week’s meeting, they revisited the modified proposal. Ted Miller, city’s parks and recreation director, proposed an ordinance that would not ban smoking outright but would attempt to prevent the use of tobacco within 50 feet of a facility or ball field.
Some council members expressed more skepticism about the effectiveness of such an ordinance. City Manager Tom Homan said the proposed ordinance would rely on the signage and the “honor system” of people obeying the signs. He said police wouldn’t actively enforce the ordinance, but if complaints are made and smokers refuse to move or obey the signage, they could ultimately be charged with trespassing.
Councilman George Hellinger said he would prefer to see an all-or-nothing stance by council rather than an ordinance that is essentially just for show.
“I think it should either be leaving it the way it is or have no smoking (at all),” Hellinger said. “The whole 50 feet thing, it’s imperfect to the point that … what are you really trying to accomplish? Are you trying to make yourself feel good, or are you actually trying to make a healthier environment?”
Hellinger suggested that if a decision is made out of concern for the environment or the health of those at the park, the ordinance should institute a full ban in parks.
Councilman Jim Browning said he would support a full ban on tobacco products in parks but also saw the 50-foot rule as a good compromise.
Vice Mayor Kent Shafer said he believes most people would honor the signage prohibiting tobacco use within a certain area, but Councilwoman Lisa Keller questioned why a law would need to be passed rather just posting signs.
“I just don’t see the need to pass a law that’s not enforceable,” Keller added.
City Attorney Darren Shulman reiterated the law would be enforceable in the sense that, should someone refuse to obey, police could remove people from the parks and issue tickets.
The proposed legislation will undergo a public hearing at an upcoming city council meeting to give residents the opportunity to voice their opinions on any type of ban.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.