Smoke-free park proposed in Gallipolis, Ohio
GALLIPOLIS, Ohio (WSAZ) -- A popular park in Gallia County could become tobacco-free, but the proposal is still in its very early stages.
Mckenzie Conley, the director of the tobacco use, prevention and cessation grant at the Gallia County Health Department, proposed the policy at the Gallipolis city commission meeting this week.
She says Gallia County was awarded a grant from the Ohio Department of Health. Just one goal of the grant is to create an outdoor area in the community to have a tobacco-free policy.
"They want us to implement policies in the community to prevent our citizens from second-hand smoke exposure," Conley said.
Conley says the city park is beloved, the location of many popular events throughout the year, and always has children playing.
"It is such a beautiful, historic park," Conley said. "It's a landmark for our community. It draws people from all over."
Gallia County was chosen for the funding, Conley says, because of the local smoking rate.
"They're higher than the state's average and the country's average and we have significantly high lung cancer rates," Conley said. "We realize there are many issues that this community faces and even in this park, but we just hope that with this, we're able to at least help one of those issues."
The proposal is still in its very early stages. Conley is just asking that the commissioners consider the proposal and that the community gives feedback.
Prior to going before the commission, Conley says she received letters of support from businesses near the park, as well as more than 80 signatures of support on a petition.
"We're willing to work with the community to see what we can do to make it work for everybody," Conley said. "We realize there are many issues that this community faces and even in this park, but we just hope that with this, we're able to at least help one of those issues."
She emphasized that the policy would not be about taking away the rights of smokers, but about making it a more healthy environment for non-smokers. Because it is a new idea, Conley says they have not decided on any sort of a penalty, but she says she would propose it would not be too serious. For example, someone smoking could just be asked to leave the park.
"We hope that it will be more of a courtesy and respect rule," Conley said. "Maybe at least, if anything, reduce the rates of smoking and litter."
Conley says she understands it would be a difficult rules to enforce, but she believes it would hopefully cut down on the second-hand smoke.
"Outdoor levels are comparable to indoor levels," Conley said. "There's been studies that show you can be affected up to 30 feet outdoors from one lit cigarette."
A city commissioner tells WSAZ they will discuss the idea before making any decisions.
As for other parks around the region, you can still smoke in Huntington. There's no smoking ban at Ritter Park or surrounding public parks.
However, Charleston is smoke-free. In 2015, city council expanded a smoking ordinance that bans lighting up on "all" city recreation land -- inside and out. If caught smoking in a city park, the penalty is a verbal warning to put out the cigarette. If a person refuses, they can be asked to leave. If they refuse that as well, police may get involved and the person could face a trespassing charge.
While this is a new concept in Gallia County, Conley says similar policies have been put into place in other areas of Ohio like Athens County, Dayton and Columbus.