116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - Iowa City leaders hope to stamp out tobacco products in all city parks.
The Iowa City Council on Tuesday voted 6-1, with Mayor Jim Throgmorton opposed, in support of the first of three readings of an amendment to the city's Smoke Free Places ordinance to prohibit the use of tobacco products, electronic cigarettes and chewing tobacco throughout all parks except in privately owned vehicles. The change would include trails that traverse city parks.
'I think it is important. I think it is a health issue,” council member Susan Mims said. 'I think it impinges on other people's health and rights to use those places in a comfortable and convenient way.”
Throgmorton said he felt parks are open spaces and smoking in a park is much different from an enclosed space.
'I do not think it's a public health issue,” he said. 'It's not like being in an airplane. ... That's just my view.”
Other members of the council said the amendment would make smoking rules consistent in all city parks.
If it takes effect, the amendment would expand Iowa City's smoking ban to include all parks. According to city documents, smoking and the use of e-cigarettes already are banned in several Iowa City parks, including dog parks, Black Hawk Mini Park, City Plaza, the Iowa City Kickers Soccer Park and Napoleon Park, to name a few.
The city does not prohibit the use of smokeless tobacco.
Susan Vileta, health educator with Johnson County Public Health, which recommended the amendment, said park ban fits into a nationwide change in mentality surrounding smoking.
'The purpose, really, of parks and trails is to promote exercise, relaxation and enjoying the outdoors. Tobacco-free ordinances, they reinforce those policies,” Vileta said.
'We've grown to kind of expect that protection in outdoor spaces, as we have in indoor spaces for quite some time.”
Iowa's Smokefree Air Act - passed in 2008 - prohibits smoking in almost all public places and enclosed areas within places of employment, as well as some outdoor areas.
Smoking also is prohibited on all University of Iowa property, and Iowa City in 2015 expanded the city's smoking ordinance to ban e-cigarettes anywhere that smoking is prohibited.
The American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation reports that just shy of 1,500 U.S. municipalities had enacted smoking bans in parks as of July. Nearly 30 of those communities are in Iowa, including Johnson County, Marion and West Liberty.
Karlene Hummel, recreation aquatics coordinator with Marion Parks and Recreation, said the city's 2-year-old ban of nicotine products in city parks was met with some initial concerns, but complaints are all but nonexistent now.
'After it went into effect, we really haven't had any issues or people complaining,” Hummel said.
Cedar Rapids officials in 2015 considered banning smoking on city-owned golf courses, but discussion ultimately was placed on hold.
Also during Tuesday's meeting, the council voted unanimously to approve $8 million in tax increment finance rebates to developers planning to build a nearly $41 million project at Burlington and Clinton streets. The Hieronymi Partnership proposal includes two seven-story buildings with residential units, an extended-stay hotel and mixed-use space.
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