Use of tobacco may be banned at Paxton's parks

PAXTON — The use of tobacco products at Paxton’s public parks and ballfields would be outlawed through a proposed ordinance up for approval by the city council in October.

The council discussed the proposed measure during Tuesday’s monthly meeting before directing the city’s attorney, Marc Miller, to draft a “no-smoking” policy that would apply to “outdoor recreational areas,” such as parks and ballfields.

Aldermen voted 7-1, with Rob Steiger casting the lone dissenting vote, to move forward with the plan.

Under the proposal, the use of any tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco, would be banned, according to Alderman Rob Pacey, who made the motion to proceed with the idea.

The council is preparing to vote on the proposed ordinance at its Oct. 10 meeting.

If the ordinance is approved, Paxton would become the only community in Ford County that has implemented such a measure, according to the Ford County Public Health Department’s tobacco coordinator, Christy Wallace.

However, “quite a few places in Illinois have enacted it,” Wallace told aldermen. “I was actually just part of a ‘think group’, and I was talking to a bunch of other public health departments in Illinois that are doing it or considering it, and it’s going on across the nation, too.”

Wallace said local health departments, plus the Illinois Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “all strongly support and endorse” banning the use of tobacco products in outdoor recreational areas. Wallace pointed out that cigarette butts are “actually a huge environmental problem” — and not just because they contribute to the presence of litter.

“There are chemicals, toxins, in the cigarette butts themselves as much as there is in the cigarette,” Wallace said. “They’re not biodegradable. It can take five to 10 years for a cigarette butt to degrade. And in that time, it can be ingested by wildlife, pets and children. And they end up in our water base. If we have a rain event, they go with the storm water and end up in our waterways.

“Basically, what I wanted to let you guys know as you’re considering it, is that the public health department is here to help you guys with anything you might have questions about or need help on.”

Mayor Bill Ingold told the Ford County Record in July that he decided to propose a smoking ban at parks and ballfields after having conversations about the idea with officials from the Paxton Park District, which uses the city-owned Nelson Field for its youth baseball league games, and the Ford County Public Health Department, which lists a reduction in the county’s smoking rate as a priority in its most recent IPLAN from 2014.

According to the IPLAN — a community health assessment done every five years — Ford County has a higher percentage of adults who smoke than the rest of the state, which has a higher percentage than the rest of the U.S.

Ingold, meanwhile, admitted that enforcing a smoking ban could prove difficult.

“I think it would be very, very tough to enforce that,” Ingold said.

The Paxton Park District’s board of commissioners also discussed the idea of implementing its own “smoke-free parks” ordinance Tuesday night. The park district, while interested, would ideally like to partner with the city on such an ordinance, Recreation Director Neal McKenry said, so that all parks, whether city-owned or park district-owned, would be smoke-free, and not just some.

“Even if the city council is not interested, the park district board may still decide to implement a ban in their parks,” McKenry said. 
 

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