City attorney Blinn Bates was asked last week to draft an ordinance
to this effect after the council received a visit from Mallory Ramos
of the Logan County Department of Public Health and a group of young
people representing the local chapter of Reality.
According to the
"REALITY Illinois is an in-your-face, stand-up-and-shout,
not-taking-it-anymore anti-tobacco movement created by and for
Illinois teens. With some help from the Illinois Department of
Public Health and local health departments, REALITY Illinois is
spreading the word about tobacco industry manipulation, second-hand
smoke and tobacco use to everyone in the state."
Ramos began by telling the council that the work that has been
done to reach this point is the result of a "We Choose Health" grant
received by the Logan County Department of Public Health.
The $30,000 grant award was used to do local research on smoking
and the use of tobacco in local playgrounds. She said the next step
is to reach out to the aldermen to get passage of a smoke-free
Ramos said the teen group had done cleanup work at two city
parks, collecting cigarette butts and tobacco resident from the
They also conducted surveys at the Logan County Fair and two
different health fairs in Logan County about the smoking habits of
local residents and how they feel about smoke-free playgrounds.
One member of the teen group showed the aldermen a plastic jar
approximately 1.5 quarts in size that was two-thirds full of
cigarette butts and loose tobacco that had been picked up from the
two downtown parks.
Aldermen were told it takes 15 years for a cigarette butt to
Another member of the teen group said that 97 people took the
four-question survey. Of those surveyed, 10 percent were smokers. In
addition, 100 percent of those answering said they would support
Ramos went on to talk about how this could be established by the
city and enforced. She said many other communities with these types
of ordinances use "social enforcement."
The grant the group has will cover the cost of signage for each
park in the city, so it can be visually identified as a smoke-free
area. Ramos said that in many other communities, enforcement is
coming when people in the park draw attention to the signs when they
see people smoking there.
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She said there are also communities that have made it a code
enforcement issue with fines attached.
Ramos moved on to why this is important. She said parks and
playgrounds are supposed to promote healthy activities. Secondhand
smoke is harmful in outdoor settings, and in order to breathe
smoke-free air even outside, one needs to be at least 23 feet from a
smoker during that activity.
She also noted that secondhand smoke does affect children,
resulting in more ear infections, more frequent and severe asthma
attacks, coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath, more cases of
bronchitis and pneumonia, and it increases the risk of SIDS in
She added that the new ordinance would not just be a health
benefit; it would also reduce fire hazards, be an environmentally
conscious ordinance and would help maintain the natural beauty of
During discussion Melody Anderson asked if the proposal was for
the entire park or just the playground area. Ramos said they are
asking for just the playground area, though some communities have
gone "whole park" and it has worked out for them.
Fire Chief Mark Miller commented that there are indeed some fire
hazards with the smoking. He noted examples of burning mulch in the
parks and visible damage to some park equipment.
Marty Neitzel noted that the city does not have jurisdiction over
Latham and Scully parks, and Mayor Keith Snyder reiterated, telling
Ramos she and her group would also need to talk to the Logan County
Board to include those parks in her project.
Bruce Carmitchel said he would be in favor of the ordinance with
social enforcement; he was not in favor of imposing fines.
Ramos said that was OK, because her information indicates that
most people will respect and follow the instruction of the signs.
Anderson said that if the city was going to make this change,
she'd just as soon see it done for the whole park, not just the
However, Carmitchel disagreed, wanting it to be only for the play
Snyder said that Bates could prepare options and the council
could decide in a vote.
[By NILA SMITH]