Washington City officially bans smoking, vaping in parks, outdoor recreational facilities

Members of the Washington County Youth Coalition giving brief statements in support of a tobacco-free policy the Washington City Council passed for its parks and outdoor recreational facilities, Washington City, May 12, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

WASHINGTON CITY — The Washington City Council approved a tobacco-free policy for its parks and public recreational facilities Wednesday that was previously introduced by a coalition of area youth. The council also tabled three zone change requests and a proposed amendment to public meetings and procedure policies.

Smoking age
Stock image, St. George News

The tobacco-free policy was originally proposed by the Washington County Youth Coalition last month and found unanimous support from the council.

“I’m excited we’re doing this. It’s long overdue,” Washington City Mayor Ken Neilson said at the council’s April 28 work meeting.

The newly-adopted ordinance bans smoking and the use of e-cigarettes within the city’s parks, on its trails and other recreational facilities and any public outdoor gatherings that may take place on city property.

Penned by City Attorney Thad Seegmiller, the new policy replaces one the city adopted in 2007 that merely encouraged people not to smoke in city parks or on its trails. Under the new policy, individuals use choose to smoke or vape in these areas can be subject to an infraction-level citation.

“We’re in support of this tobacco-free policy in the public parks,” Youth Coalition member Zachary Moore told the City Council. “It promotes freedom in the sense it limits secondhand smoke, and people are more likely to stop smoking if they aren’t around other people who are smoking.”

Goals of the new policy, as outlined by the Youth Coalition, are as follows:

  • Protect people who already have health issues, as well as otherwise healthy individuals, from inhaling secondhand smoke.
  • Prevent young children from seeing smoking in public and thereby believing it is something normal and acceptable.
  • Encourage current smokers and vape users to quit.
  • Keep parks clean of smoking remains like cigarette butts.

The coalition, which is sponsored by the Southwest Utah Public Health Department and similar agencies, is composed of high school students from across the county who engage in campaigns against tobacco use and other health threats to the county’s young people.

In this file photo, city residents participate in the official opening of the Canyon Park and Hell Hole Trailhead in Washington City, Utah, Nov. 23, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

During their pitch to the City Council at the April 28 meeting, coalition members shared that nearly 60% of Utah youth are exposed to secondhand smoke every week in outdoor settings. Around 8% of the county’s population are smokers, according to data shared from the local health department, and an estimated 80% of those smokers want to kick the habit.

Vaping is also denounced by the Youth Coalition, as it is still seen as a tobacco product and is considered a health danger to youth in general.

The city council unanimously adopted the new ordinance following brief statements made by Moore and another member of the Youth Coalition.

In other news, the City Council tabled the approval of requested zone changes for three parcels of land in the area of 3650 South and 500 East. Council members expressed concerns over the potential commercial enterprises to be allowed on one of the properties and the medium-high density designation sought for another.

The council also tabled proposed amendments to its public meetings and procedure policies due to concerns over wording and how certain policies should be applied. Some of the proposed amendments relate to how council members interact with city employees and assuring that council members clarify when they are representing their own interest as a regular citizen and not a representative of the city.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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