A proposed ban on smoking in Powell parks could be difficult to enforce, city officials say.

A proposed ban on smoking in Powell parks could be difficult to enforce, city officials say.

But a representative of Tobacco Free Delaware County, an independent advocacy group that approached Powell City Council this month about implementing the new regulation, said a ban would be largely self-enforcing.

Linda Diamond, Tobacco Free Delaware County member and development director with the Delaware General Health District, said the proposal looks out for the health of children.

In addition to the risks of secondhand smoke, Diamond said discarded cigarette butts sometimes can find their way into the mouths of young kids and animals.

Just seeing adults smoking can have adverse affects because it could influence the way children perceive smoking, she said.

"We want to make sure that children don't see as many adults, especially those they might see as role models, using tobacco products," Diamond said.

Councilman Tom Counts said the city doesn't have a tobacco problem. No residents have approached council complaining about smoking in the parks or cigarette litter.

But Counts said he and other members of the city's operations committee, which currently is discussing the possibility of a ban, agree with the proposal in spirit.

"I don't think there's anyone that disagrees with the need to maintain a healthy environment for our children," he said.

But outdoor regulations could be difficult or impossible to enforce.

If the city chose to adopt a new law, officials would be free to define a penalty for transgressors. A fine is most likely.

But the city's police officers are too busy to patrol parks for smokers, and even if an incident was reported, it's unlikely the smoker still would be present by the time an officer arrived, Counts said.

"Are you in fact making your community a healthier place for the cost that it's going to take to enforce that?" he asked.

Counts said he and other members of the operations committee may prefer educational initiatives over other options.

For example, anti-smoking signs could be placed in parks asking residents not to smoke and explaining the dangers
of secondhand smoke, he said.

But Diamond said educational outreach goes hand-in-hand with legal regulation.

She said the initiative is as much about getting the word out as it is about writing tickets.

"Usually people will say something to someone if they see them smoking," she said, "and 99.9 percent of the time, people are very compliant about that."

The operations committee will discuss the issue at its next meeting, set for May 15.

Powell would be a testing ground for Tobacco Free Delaware County's new initiative.

Even if the city decides against the ban, the group plans to eventually reach out to all parks and recreational facilities in Delaware County, Diamond said.

Preservation Parks of Delaware County, which oversees eight parks, currently prohibits tobacco near its three playground areas.
Genoa Township, on the county's southeast side, also has banned smoking in public parks.