By Scott Levine Herald Associate Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON — A plan to eliminate smoking at youth activities in Clinton took a step closer Thursday to becoming reality.
However, a timetable to squash smoking at other events, notably adult-league softball games, won’t happen — at least not yet.
Rules and Regulations committee members Thursday forwarded a proposal that would ban smoking from facilities that have structured youth activities and events.
At-large Councilman John Rowland voted “no” to the proposal, citing the plan’s place on the city’s priority list.
“We have priorities in this community, and we’re worried about smoking in parks?” Rowland said.
Rowland said the city’s air quality was a bigger priority than smoking. According to the 2013 County Health Rankings, a national study that measures health factors across the country, Clinton registered 76th out of 99 counties for physical environment.
That was the second-best ranking within the health factor portion of the study. However, within the physical environment category, daily fine particulate matter registered an 11.4, the only measure within that category to rank higher than the state average. Other parts of the physical environment category included drinking water safety, access to recreational facilities, access to healthy foods and fast food restaurants.
But the community is prioritizing no-smoking efforts, Breathe Easy Tobacco Coalition of Clinton and Jackson counties Coordinator Jennifer Gerdes said.
“Some change is better than no change,” Gerdes said.
The coalition conducted surveys, resulting in 88 percent of Clinton residents supporting tobacco-free playground and 82 percent supporting tobacco-free sports complexes, parks and fairgrounds. Almost 75 percent of those surveyed were families with children.
“We’re using the Iowa Smoke Free Air Act and taking it one step farther,” Gerdes said.
But for now, the committee is only taking that one step.
Parks and Recreation Director Gregg Obren issued a phased-in schedule of other facilities and events that he and the coalition believed the city should enact no-smoking rules. No dates were given on the ideas for no smoking at unstructured youth areas and activities, festivals on city-owned land, common area in all parks, Eagle Point Lodge and adult softball.
“It takes time and money to make all these changes,” Ward 4 Councilman Paul Gassman said. “We don’t have to decide on (the other items).”
According to the resolution being forwarded to the full City Council, the coalition must notify this policy to the community and facility users, and at its own expense, provide and post adequate signage to notify the public.
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.