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2:54 AM Mon, Sept. 24th

Prescott Council leans toward smoking ban in city parks

Final decision by Prescott City Council expected in April

The right to light up anywhere in Prescott’s parks could be stubbed out soon, in favor of limited smoking areas.

A proposal to prohibit smoking in most city parks attracted more than a dozen people to the Prescott City Council’s study session Tuesday, March 27.

Although some opposition to the proposed ordinance arose, most of those who spoke urged the city to move forward with the smoking ban in the parks.

A number of the speakers were asthma sufferers themselves or had family members who had suffered asthma attacks from breathing in cigarette smoke.

While council members did not come to a final decision this week, several appeared to support restricting smoking in city parks, with limited smoking areas provided in the larger parks.

After the meeting, City Manager Michael Lamar said he expects a proposed ordinance to be back on a council voting-session agenda in late April.

A number of speakers from the audience related stories about the effects that cigarette smoke had on their health.

Rabbi Adele Plotkin, an asthma sufferer, told the council that cigarette smoke had caused her to stop breathing at times. She pushed for an ordinance against smoking in the all city parks.

Plotkin also took strong exception to an earlier comment by Councilman Phil Goode about the health effects of secondhand smoke in the outdoors.

Goode maintained that studies had made a “reasonable case” that secondhand smoke in a confined area was a health risk. But he questioned whether the same was true of secondhand cigarette smoke in the outdoors.

“In most cases, this is more annoyance than anything else,” Goode said, adding that people who are annoyed by cigarette smoke in the parks “have the right to go somewhere they’re not annoyed.”

Plotkin responded: “Thank you for denying my existence. This is not an annoyance for me; it’s a life and death situation.”

Goode told Plotkin that while he “certainly did not deny your existence,” he added, “I’m a believer in limited government and freedom and liberty, and I’ll fight to the death for that.”

Along with the support from audience members, the council also heard some opposition to the proposed ban.

Retired Superior Court Judge Ralph Hess, for instance, questioned the basis for the ban. “These parks are wide open,” he said. “If you’re concerned about cigarette butts, you have littering provisions and codes that can be enforced.”

Councilwoman Billie Orr was among the council members to voice support for a ban. “We spend a lot of time and money and effort on our parks and trails,” she said, adding that Prescott is known for its health and wellbeing.

“I have asthma, and I cannot be around smoke (whether it is) five feet away or 10 feet away,” Orr said.

In response to questions from the council about how the city would enforce a smoking ban in the parks, City Attorney Jon Paladini said that a number of cities throughout the U.S. had already banned smoking on public beaches and in parks.

Many of those cities have reported that the ban is largely “self-enforced,” Paladini said, noting that “no smoking” signs are often enough to deter people from smoking in an area.

Councilman Steve Blair proposed that the city designate areas in some of its parks to allow smoking, and several other council member voiced support for that option.

Paladini suggested that the ordinance leave the location of the designated smoking areas up to the city manager and the recreation services director.

Most council members appeared to agree that the ban should cover the city’s trails and its trailheads, as well as its smaller parks. The smoking areas would likely be designated in the city’s larger parks.