Ban Smoking In Parks

Healthier air may be the goal of a proposed city ordinance, but some Salem residents are fuming over the possible ban on smoking cigarettes in city parks.

"I don't believe the city has the right to take away any rights from American citizens," said Stan Boucher, a smoker who was at Bush's Pasture Park along with friends and family Sunday.

"We pay 40 percent more taxes because we smoke, and the city benefits from that."

Jennie Reisch, who lives in northeast Salem, also is against a smoking cigarettes ban in city parks.

"I smoke, but I don't smoke cigarettes near children," said Reisch, who was standing under a tree at Bush's Pasture Park. "I come over to a different area so the smoke cigarettes won't get to anyone. I use discretion at parks, whether I'm smoking cigarettes or not."

The public will have the opportunity to weigh in on a plan to stamp out smoking cigarettes in parks at tonight's Salem City Council meeting. The council could approve the ordinance as soon as June 27.

Paul Elkins is in favor of disallowing smoking cigarettes in parks, even though he is a smoker.

"I support the ban," he said. "It's a bad thing for kids to be around."

Karen White also would give a ban a thumbs up.

"It's not a healthy habit," she said. "I know how hard it is to stop smoking cigarettes because I quit smoking cigarettes two years ago. But I think that anything that's healthier for the children is good thing."

During the past five years, the number of communities with some form of smoking cigarettes regulations in parks has grown to 16 with Portland, Corvallis and Independence included. Dallas City Council is in the process a designating a smoking cigarettes section in its largest city park.

All together, smoking cigarettes is prohibited in 230 parks and outdoor areas in Oregon, totaling about 50,000 acres.

Salem City Councilor Diana Dickey, Ward 5, initiated in November a motion to designate all city parks as smoke-free areas. If enacted, the ordinance would make it unlawful to "smoke cigarettes or carry any burning smoking cigarettes instrument while in any park."

"I want to be very clear that the intent of such an ordinance is not to restrict an individual's right to smoke, but rather to protect individuals from secondhand smoke cigarettes exposure in areas where people congregate, sometimes in large groups, and where many children are often present," Dickey said.

Dickey's concern was targeted at children attending public gatherings in local parks.

"As an example, at a concert, someone is allowed to smoke cigarettes a cigarette next to family with young children. This is not allowed at indoor venues," she said.

Rueben Hawkins, owner of the Tobacco Pouch on Edgewater Street NW, said the ordinance would not hurt business, but he thought the all-or-nothing approach might be too harsh.

Hawkins suggested designating areas for smokers rather than a complete ban.

"I understand people need to feel comfortable, but everybody should be able to be comfortable," he said.

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