• 52°

Smoking ban gets people fired up at City Council

SALISBURY — Smokers can no longer light up at city parks and ball fields.
Salisbury City Council on Tuesday passed an ordinance banning cigarettes and other tobacco products from the city’s 28 park properties and more than five miles of greenway.
“It’s a no-brainer to eliminate tobacco use from facilities that are designed for healthy living,” resident Mary Arey said during a public hearing.
The ban makes Salisbury one of about a dozen cities and counties in North Carolina to prohibit cigarettes, cigars and snuff from public parks.
While many people supported the proposal from the Salisbury Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, not everyone who spoke thought it was a good idea.
John Burke called the ban “an attack on the freedom of people to do what are basically stupid and unhealthy things.”
Burke, who said he hasn’t smoked in 30 years, said the case against secondhand smoke is overblown and suggested City Council take “a long, hard look at the actual evidence” of dangers from breathing in the air exhaled by a smoker.
He also questioned the cost and manpower to enforce the ordinance and warned council members not to pass an ordinance and then not enforce it, which he said breeds disrespect for the law.
Rather than smoking, the city should tackle issues that pose a greater danger to residents, such as obesity and driving while impaired, Burke said.
“We have enough problems to go around without wasting your time and resources on this problem,” he said.
But Elaine China said smoking in Hurley Park has become a growing problem for the city. Ever since the hospital banned the use of tobacco products, smokers have walked across the street to light up at the entrance to Hurley Park, which is littering the city’s horticultural gem with cigarette butts, said China, a former smoker.
Butts take decades to decompose, she said, and cigarettes contain many disease-carrying organisms that threaten not only human health but plants as well.
“People have the right to be stupid, as one gentleman said, but let them be stupid in their own homes, not in our public places,” China said.
That comment earned applause from Dorothy Partlow in the audience, who also spoke in favor of the ban. She said she works at the Freightliner plant in Cleveland, where she has developed asthma because employees are allowed to smoke on the assembly line.
“No one should have to be exposed to secondhand smoke, especially children,” Partlow said.
Nancy Vick argued that the ban was just another example of the government taking away the rights of citizens.
“You cannot dictate to the general public constantly what they should and should not do,” Vick said. “We cannot police everyone.”
While Vick supported no smoking at ballparks, she said banning cigarettes at other parks would violate smokers’ right to use the facilities. Vick said cigarettes are not the only items dirtying parks and named urination and general litter as other problems.
City Council unanimously approved the ban, which Councilwoman Karen Alexander said is intended to protect the health of residents, not extinguish the rights of smokers.
“We’re not taking away the rights of smokers to use the park, they just can’t smoke in the park,” said Alexander, who serves as City Council’s liaison to the parks and rec board.
Alexander and Councilman Pete Kennedy noted the city’s existing air quality problems, which exacerbate asthma and other respiratory problems.
“We need to do everything we can and in every way that we can to protect those who are vulnerable,” Alexander said.
The ban will include Civic Center, Halls Gym and Miller Center, where children play, Kennedy said. Just as City Council works to protect residents from crime, members should protect them from health hazards as well, he said.
Councilman Brian Miller said while he laments government’s involvement throughout society, the ban will improve the parks if enforced in a common-sense way.
Writing tickets to smokers at the entrance of Hurley Park would be overkill, Miller said. If someone is violating the ordinance, they will be asked politely to stop, he said.
According to the parks and rec board, park staff would enforce the ban, issuing a verbal warning to smokers, followed by a written warning to those who do not comply. As a last resort, the city would fine people who continue to smoke or dip on park property.
The Health Department won an anti-smoking grant that will pay for signs in every city park.
Mayor Paul Woodson said he guessed that 75 percent of people who see the no-smoking signs will comply.
“Twenty-five percent won’t, and we will have to deal with that,” he said.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

Comments

Comments closed.

Local

City gives away nearly 100 trees during ‘We Dig Salisbury’ event

Local

Political Notebook: Bitzer expects most ‘Trump-like’ candidate to be favorite in state’s Senate race

Crime

Blotter: Concord man arrested in Rowan for indecent liberties with children

Coronavirus

Half of US adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot

Nation/World

Police: FedEx shooter legally bought guns used in shooting

News

Hester Ford, oldest living American, dies at 115 … or 116?

Local

Size of pipeline spill again underestimated in North Carolina

BREAKING NEWS

Kannapolis Police searching for suspect who fled scene of homicide

Education

RSS superintendent talks district’s future, strategic plan survey

News

Complaints and fines pile up against unpermitted landfill in southwest Rowan County

College

Catawba baseball: Crowd comes out to say goodbye to Newman Park

Lifestyle

History is a great teacher: Farming has helped shape Rowan County

Business

‘A safe place for them’: Timeless Wigs and Marvelous Things celebrates fifth anniversary

China Grove

County will hear request for more tree houses, hobbit-style homes in China Grove

Coronavirus

Livingstone College partners with Health Department to administer 500 Pfizer vaccinations

Education

‘Elite and it shows’: Staff at Partners in Learning at Novant celebrate news of national accreditation

Business

Biz Roundup: Food Lion earns Energy Star award for 20th consecutive year

Columns

Ester Marsh: What body type are you?

Nation/World

The queen says goodbye to Philip, continues her reign alone

Nation/World

Worldwide COVID-19 death toll tops a staggering 3 million

Nation/World

US, China agree to cooperate on climate crisis with urgency

Nation/World

Sikh community calls for gun reforms after FedEx shooting

High School

North Rowan romps into second round of football playoffs

Nation/World

FBI had interviewed former FedEx employee who killed eight