Monday’s meeting of Delaware City Council marked the second reading and public hearing for the city’s proposed ordinance to impose a 50-foot smoking ban around recreational facilities at city parks. The ban would implement a ban on smoking and smoking devices within 50 feet of recreational facilities in city parks.
The ordinance originally began a full ban on all tobacco products within city parks, which was first discussed during a July 2018 council meeting. Throughout discussions, the need to ban smokeless tobacco was questioned by some council members. Assistant City Attorney Chris Ballard said on Monday the language including smokeless tobacco was removed, and language including products such as electronic cigarettes was added.
Ballard also specified the recreational areas that would fall under the ordinance. Playgrounds, athletic fields, aquatic areas, picnic shelters, restrooms, pickleball, and tennis courts would all be included in the 50-foot smoking ban policy. Hidden Valley Golf Course would not be included in the ordinance.
Leonard Fisher, who chairs the Tobacco-Free Delaware County Coalition, talked about the importance of role models during the public hearing, and how impressionable the youth can be. He also disagreed with any specifications to what a recreational facility in the proposed ban would include.
“The whole park is a recreational facility,” Fisher said. “That’s kind of the definition of a park.” He added, “We should do everything we can to keep youngsters from becoming hooked. Our coalition, as a whole, supports the idea of a 100 percent tobacco-free park policy.”
Delaware resident Linda Diamond also advocated for a 100 percent ban, saying, “Having a 100 percent tobacco-free policy doesn’t mean you’re asking people not to use tobacco. You’re only asking them not to use tobacco during their short stay in a park here in the city.”
Diamond went on to say a full ban would help those in the parks who suffer from breathing issues such as asthma or COPD, and also would cut down on the amount of litter in parks. She added enforcement of the policy would be much easier if the ordinance banned all tobacco products.
Not every resident who spoke during the public hearing was in favor of a full tobacco ban — or a ban at all. Ed Paxton, who owns Woodland Cigar Company in Delaware, said he didn’t believe the ban would be enforceable.
“(Cops) don’t want to get called over to Mingo (Park) because somebody is walking down a path with a cigarette,” he said.
Paxton also said a 50-foot buffer wouldn’t appease those in the park who take offense to the smoke, citing personal instances in the past where some have sought him out to ask that he extinguish his cigar, despite him being over 50 feet away from any recreational facility.
Questions of how enforceable this proposed ordinance would be aren’t limited to the public. During discussions at the Feb. 18 meeting, Councilwoman Lisa Keller questioned why adding signs wouldn’t suffice, saying, “I just don’t see the need to pass a law that’s not enforceable.”
Because members of the Parks and Recreation Department were not able to be present for the meeting, the public hearing will be extended to the next council meeting, which is slated for Monday, April 8.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @ddavis_gazette.