Are smoke-free parks on horizon?
Smoking a cigarette or cigar while sitting on a park bench may soon get you in trouble with the law in Nevada City and Grass Valley, if county health officials have their way.
They are seeking support to ban smoking in at least 80 percent of all parks in the county by 2007 as part of the proposed “Comprehensive Tobacco Control Plan.” The plan is necessary to help the county secure state grant money for smoking prevention and education efforts, said Alison Lehman, the county’s acting community health director.
While the Nevada County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution supporting the plan Tuesday, there was some skepticism about telling people where they were allowed to smoke.
“I think we need to be careful about how we regulate legal behavior for those over 18,” said District 2 Supervisor Sue Horne.
District 3 Supervisor John Spencer was concerned that this plan could just be the beginning of a crackdown on smoking laws.
“Prohibiting people from smoking in their cars or in their homes, would it go that far?” asked District 3 Supervisor John Spencer, adding, “Don’t even think about doing golf courses.”
But Patti Carter, the county’s tobacco prevention coordinator, said it is more about protecting the rights of others, especially children, who are exposed to second-hand smoke in parks and recreation areas. In fact, there are already areas that are off-limits to smokers, such as playgrounds and areas where children play, she said.
“The smoking in you car ban was already defeated in the legislature. I don’t see that we will come to you in the future and ask you to prohibit people from smoking in their homes,” Carter said.
San Francisco became the first major city in the country to completely ban smoking in all public parks and recreation areas two weeks ago. It is also not new to Nevada County – there are already two parks that are entirely smoke-free.
Other parts of the plan would:
• Require businesses to buy a permit to sell tobacco, similar to the fee to acquire a liquor license.
• Provide for additional anti-smoking education in local schools.
• Set up active youth and adult prevention coalitions.
The plan will not become a law until Nevada City and Grass Valley weigh in to formulate the specific fee scales and regulations. It will be up to the cities to decide their specific policies on enforcement and licensing fee collection.
There are also other models in the state that Grass Valley and Nevada City could use to formulate their own policy, Lehman explained. For example, if a business is caught selling tobacco to a minor, the operators could lose their license, depending on how the cities set up their policies, Carter said.
Much of the costs of implementing the ban or beefing up surveillance of businesses who violate the law would come from these fees, but it is up to the cities to decide what they want.
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