Vancouver City Council bans using tobacco in public parks, trails, recreation centers

The Vancouver City Council members on Monday voted unanimously to completely ban all forms of tobacco — chewed and smoked — in the city’s public parks, trails and recreation centers. The ban will be effective in 30 days.

The vote followed a two-hour discussion that includes a string of public testimonies for and against the ordinance. The council also voted to prohibit possession and use of liquors, except during special events permitted by the city and state.

The discussion focused solely on banning tobacco in public parks, with Councilman Jack Burkman making a motion to not ban smokeless or chewed tobacco, saying that if someone wants to use smokeless tobacco, “I think that’s a line we may not want to cross.” Burkman’s motion failed.

Most of the public testimonies were in support of the ban.

Alan Melnick, a health officer for Clark County, said any form of tobacco is an “incredible health hazard” especially for youths.

“I don’t think there’s more important issue than tobacco,” Melnick said. “Even when parents smoke exclusively outside, (studies have found that) that their children still have high levels of nicotine in their bodies.”

For Vancouver resident Sonya Rowe, the issue of tobacco use is more personal. Rowe said she grew up around second-hand smoking while living in San Diego, Calif. and has been in and out of the hospital for cardio pulmonary issues.

“It’s so wonderful to come up here (in Washington) and take in a lungful of clean air,” Rowe said. “I want to see it continue to be that way.”

In October, the City of Vancouver Law Department and the Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation Department proposed completely banning smoking any form of tobacco in public parks, trails and recreation centers, citing scientific research on the dangers of second-hand smoke.

Also approved after Monday’s discussion is keeping people out of parks for unruly or disruptive behavior. The ordinance includes rules on how long a person can be banned from a public park or recreation facility. This can be as short as seven days, or as long as one year, depending on the nature of the misconduct and prior violations of park rules.

By Kristine Guerra

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