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Gladstone City Commission mulls outdoor tobacco use

August 28, 2012
By Ilsa Matthes - staff writer ( , Daily Press

GLADSTONE - The Gladstone City Commission voted to table a proposed policy banning tobacco use on city-owned, recreational property Monday night.

The proposal will be re-addressed at the board's Nov. 1 regular meeting.

"The reason we approached Gladstone about possibly covering some of their outdoor recreational areas as being smoke-free or tobacco-free is, from a public health standpoint. We do know that there is no safe amount of exposure to second-hand smoke, including outdoors," said Shannon Hammond of Public Health Delta & Menominee Counties.

According to Hammond, similar policies have reduced the number of youths who begin smoking.

"We also know that tobacco use in outdoor areas sends a negative health message to youth," she said.

The policy was met with opposition from commissioners.

"Beyond the principled reasons that I oppose this policy as it's written, I've got a major fundamental objection to the thing," said Commissioner Matt Gay.

"This policy, for all intents and purposes, establishes an ordinance without going through the full process of an ordinance," Gay continued.

Enforcement of the policy included fines under the city's nuisance ordinance. The ordinance names a number of possible nuisances, including anything that endangers the health or safety or the public.

"It is vague, in terms of enforcement," said Public Safety Director Paul Geyer.

The vagueness of the ordinance could present enforcement issues for the policy.

"Now it's debatable. Where is the definitive study that says outdoor second-hand smoke is, in fact, a public health hazard?" asked Gay. "I don't disagree that it may be. I don't disagree that indoor second-hand smoke is. I don't disagree that smoking is not healthy. That's not really my point."

While the proposal was designed to give the city flexibility in determining which locations would be designated as smoke free, the policy itself was not specific.

"The policy, as it was written, gives us leeway ... to pick and choose which ones are going to be smoke free. It is a very lenient first step," said Nicole Sanderson, director of parks and recreation.

According to Sanderson, the policy would be used to limit tobacco use on playgrounds, the beach, walking paths and at the skate park. Locations like the harbor are not intended to become smoke-free areas.

Despite being unclear on the locations where smoking would be banned, it contained detailed language listing what products would be prohibited. Under the policy, any form of smoking tobacco, smokeless tobacco, or electronic cigarettes would be forbidden in the designated public spaces.

Currently, those who use tobacco products in playground areas or parks and refuse to stop when confronted can be asked to leave at the discretion of recreation department staff. If the tobacco-user refuses to leave, public safety can be called to cite the person for trespassing.

According to officials, the current system is working, however grant money may be dependent upon developing a no-smoking policy in certain areas. "We have accepted those monies, and we've accepted their rules that way," said Renee Baron, zoning administrator and author of the policy. "They have encouraged us to take it a another step further to be eligible for future money."

The consensus among the commissioners was that the policy needed revisions, but some commissioners were not against the idea of limiting the exposure that children had to smoking.

"As far as setting an example, I agree. Any adult who smokes in front of a child in a public place is pretty stupid. That should not be allowed," said Commissioner Joe Maki.

The policy will be readdressed at the Nov. 1 regular meeting, after the Recreation Board has time to rework the policy into the framework of existing park rules.

A video recording of Monday's meeting will be aired Sept. 6 on cable channel 12, following the broadcast of the Escanaba City Council meeting.



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