The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

May 9, 2013

Clearing the air

By Katie Dahlstrom Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — Smoking in city parks could become a thing of the past as city officials work on a phased-in plan to make some parks and city-run activities smoke free.

During the Rules and Regulations Committee meeting Tuesday, members of the Let’s Live Healthy, Clinton group asked committee members to ban tobacco in city parks as means of improving the health of the community and decreasing children’s exposure to smoking.

Jennifer Gerdes, the coordinator of the Breathe Easy Tobacco Coalition of Clinton and Jackson counties, told committee members that based on community surveys, 88 percent of Clinton residents support tobacco-free playgrounds while 82 percent support tobacco-free sports complexes, parks and fairgrounds. Gerdes said 73 percent of the people surveyed were families with children.

Ward 4 Councilman Paul Gassman suggested the group work with Recreation Director Gregg Obren on a plan that details what areas and events should be smoke free rather than establishing a blanket policy that would cover all parks.

“I think the idea that you had where one community decided when there are youth activities, that’s smart to do, but when there’s nobody there it should not be the end of the world because we don’t have the resources to handle all this all at once as it’s presented to us,” Gassman said.

Obren said his department has already instituted some informal non-smoking practices at youth events.

“If we are on our own land with our own programs, that’s an administrative function. We’ve already kind of done that. Maybe not officially, but I don’t think you see people smoking at soccer at Jurgensen. I don’t think you do. There might be once and again we go up and ask them, ‘no, thanks,’” Obren said.

However, at some of the city facilities such as Eagle Point Park Lodge, or events like adult softball, a smoking ban might not be as accepted as it would at a youth activity, he said.

“We’re going to have to change a culture in our community. Big time. That’s what we’re going to have to do,” Obren said.

Clinton County historically has a high percentage of adult smokers. In the 2013 County Health Rankings, a national study that measures health factors across the country, Clinton County reported a 28 percent adult smoking rate. Iowa has 18 percent and the national benchmark is 13 percent. Adult smoking is factored into the health behaviors section on the County Health Rankings. Clinton came in 99 out of 99 Iowa counties for health behaviors.

Gerdes asked if city officials could make a policy change in order to instill the non-smoking attitude in the community and in turn help Clinton become healthier.

“We’re looking for something officially and by that what I mean is even if council would pass where it is youth-structured events. Even the fact of us being able to post signage...how many people would comply?”

Obren agreed that a large percentage of people would comply if they were asked to abstain from smoking.

“If you ask, you’ll get 80 to 85 percent compliance and then pretty soon the culture begins changing. Then another 5 percent and another 5 percent. You’re always going to have 5 percent that’s going to be a problem,” Obren said.

Committee members asked tobacco-free supporters to come back to the committee meeting next month with a plan for phasing in the policy.

Clinton ranks last in Iowa for health In the 2013 County Health Rankings, a national study that measures health factors across the country, Clinton County reported a 28 percent adult smoking rate. Iowa has 18 percent and the national benchmark is 13 percent. Adult smoking is factored into the health behaviors section on the County Health Rankings. Clinton came in 99 out of 99 Iowa counties for health behaviors.