By Katie Dahlstrom Assistant Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON — Smokers will have to ditch their cigarettes at youth events after the Clinton City Council approved a smoking ban at youth-structured activities and events at city-owned recreational facilities and parks.
The measure passed 5-2 with at-large Councilman John Rowland and Ward 1 Councilwoman Maggie Klaes voting not to implement the policy. Citing the city’s potential inability to enforce the ordinance, Klaes made a motion to pull the ban, but her motion failed 6-1.
Smokers won’t be able to light up at Riverview Pool, Jurgensen Soccer Park, Emma Young Softball/ Football Complex,or the Mayer Park Softball Fields when youth-structured events are in progress.
The Breathe Easy Tobacco Coalition of Clinton and Jackson counties will notify and publicize the policy to the community and facility users. The coalition also will pay for and post signs to notify the public of this policy. Coalition Coordinator Jennifer Gerdes, who led the charge for the smoking ban, said her group has already ordered 35 signs and will begin to post them once the resolution is signed by Mayor Mark Vulich.
Gerdes said her group is thrilled to have council support for the ban that it has been working to implement for three years.
“We want to see community change, not only for the children but for the environment and the community as a whole,” Gerdes said.
Clinton County reported a 28 percent adult smoking rate during the county health rankings. Iowa has an 18 percent rate, while 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.
According to the resolution, anyone violating the policy will be told to stop using tobacco on the property or leave. If the person will not stop or leave, he or she can be reported to law enforcement for trespassing or violating the ordinance.
While Gerdes is elated about the ban, she acknowledges that not everyone in the community is. She said she has heard negative comments from residents who feel its not the city’s place to ban smoking, but contends the ban is not meant to interfere with residents’ rights.
“This initiative was never meant to take away people’s rights, but to enhance the quality of life for the children. Parents, referees, coaches and other adults at these youth events should want to be positive role models for our children,” Gerdes said. “It might be their right to smoke, but it’s also a citizen’s right and children’s rights to breathe clean air.”
The coalition will continue to work on implementing another five phases of the smoking ban, which would eliminate smoking at unstructured youth areas and activities, festivals on city-owened land, common areas in all parks, Eagle Point Park lodge and adult softball games.