A proposed smoking and vaping ban at Delaware's parks and recreation facilities was endorsed by six of seven people who spoke during a public hearing at city council's March 25 meeting.

An ordinance to approve the ban received its second reading, with the final reading scheduled April 8.

The proposal has been discussed at several council meetings and was modified by a unanimous council vote March 11 to exclude smokeless tobacco.

Council also asked for a clearer definition of the areas to be affected.

The ordinance now reads, "No person shall engage in smoking or use an electronic cigarette within 50 feet of any recreational facility of city parks.

For purposes of this subsection, recreational facilities are defined as playgrounds, athletic fields, tennis courts, pickleball courts, aquatic areas, picnic shelters and restrooms, but not the Hidden Valley Golf Course."

Councilwoman Lisa Keller on March 11 said, "If somebody is chewing and spitting into a cup sitting next to me at a baseball game, I don't see why we need to tell that person they can't do that."

City Attorney Darren Shulman earlier suggested the city-owned Hidden Valley Golf Course should be exempt from a smoking ban.

The course is heavily used by adults, and the city allows beer sales there.

The agenda March 25 included a statement from the Tobacco-Free Delaware County Coalition, which is affiliated with the Delaware General Health District.

Its points include:

* "Secondhand smoke harms everyone. Second-hand smoke is a human carcinogen for which there is no safe level of exposure."

* "Cigarette litter is dangerous. Discarded cigarettes may be ingested by toddlers, pets, birds or fish."

*"Tobacco-free policies establish the community norm that tobacco use is not an acceptable behavior for young people or adults within the entire community."

* "Tobacco-free environments promote positive community role modeling. Tobacco-free policies help break the connection between tobacco and sports."

Those endorsing the ban March 25 included Abby Trimble of the health district.

She accompanied Allyson Lash, chairwoman of the City Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, when the ban was proposed to council July 9.

At that meeting, City Parks and Natural Resources Director Ted Miller told council his department had been reviewing a proposed ban.

Another March 25 speaker, Linda Diamond, urged council to include smokeless tobacco in the ban. Smokeless tobacco tins and cups in which users spit result in more litter, she said.

Ed Paxton of Woodland Cigar, 46 N. Sandusky St., called the proposed ban, "kind of ridiculous. I guess I would say pass the law, but let's pass a law that says when I'm out on my bicycle, I don't want to see a school bus accelerate in front of me and blow a big puff of black, you know, smoke in front of my face as I'm riding my bike."

He also said the ban will be unenforceable.

On March 11, Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski said officers won't cite those smoking and vaping if the ban takes effect.

Instead, he said, the proposed ban would give police "a basis to ask someone to exit the park."

If someone fails to leave when asked by police, he said, that person can be charged with criminal trespass.

The council agenda noted that because city schools were on spring break the week of March 25, the hearing will in effect be continued until April 8. Keller and council member Kent Shafer were absent March 25.

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