Smokers who visit Westerville's public parks soon will be required to extinguish their cigarettes and put away their vape pens.
Westerville City Council agreed to ban smoking in the suburb's public parks July 2, joining Columbus and a growing number of surrounding cities. In recent years, more than a dozen central Ohio communities have eliminated smoking in parks or at playgrounds. In Franklin County, those communities include Dublin, Grove City, Hilliard and Reynoldsburg.
Supporters say such laws reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, especially in areas where children gather and large public events are held. They also aim to reduce litter and fire hazards.
"I think most people these days will agree smoking is not healthy for anybody," said Miller Sullivan, Franklin County Public Health medical director.
"Parks are one of those places people go to be healthy."
The health agency will help Westerville install signs related to the ban in the coming weeks.
Westerville's new ordinance, approved by a 6-1 vote, takes effect 30 days from July 2. Parks and Recreation Director Randy Auler said his staff, not city police, will mostly enforce the rule. Westerville police will get involved only if a situation escalates and can't be resolved, he said.
Councilman Tim Davey, who voted against the change, said enforcing it is a poor use of the city's resources.
Though Westerville officials previously had discussed prohibiting the sale of tobacco products to anyone younger than 21, they are no longer pursuing that change.
Instead, city council members approved a resolution last month supporting a statewide "Tobacco 21" initiative, partially because of legal concerns.
Several communities across Ohio have already increased their tobacco-buying age from 18 to 21, including Columbus and seven of its suburbs. But Westerville law director Bruce Bailey said that because there is an existing state law on the matter, that likely pre-empts local law, meaning such rules could be challenged in court.
Davey also voted against that resolution because he opposed taking away the rights of legal adults, he said.
About 22 percent of Ohioans smoked in 2016, according to the most recent data available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The national average is 15.5 percent.