Upper Arlington City Council is expected to hear the first reading April 8 of an ordinance that would ban the use of cigarettes, pipes, cigars, electronic cigarettes or vaping devices at all public parks in the city.

City Attorney Jeanine Hummer said a second reading would be heard April 22. If the legislation is approved that night, the new law would take effect 30 days later.

The prohibition against nicotine -- if it becomes law -- would follow council action in June 2015 that made Upper Arlington the first city in Ohio to establish 21 as the minimum age for buying tobacco, electronic cigarettes and liquid nicotine.

During an April 1 conference session, council heard testimony from Dr. Robert Crane, a clinical professor of family medicine for the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and founder of the Preventing Tobacco Addiction Foundation. He said approximately 1,500 cities nationwide and 15 in Ohio have banned the use of nicotine in public parks.

"Nelsonville and Logan -- not exactly the most progressive places in the world -- and they have done this," he said. "This is about social-norming. Parks are for kids and if kids are there watching kids smoke in groups, it helps them think about smoking more.

"Mostly, it's a statement about health, saying the city, our city, is a healthy city."

In calling on city leaders to pass the ban in Upper Arlington, Crane said one nicotine cartridge for a popular vaping device called Juul contains as much nicotine as a half-pack of cigarettes.

He also said 7.3 million people under the age of 18 in the United States are addicted to nicotine and a recent study found that up to 25 percent of incoming freshmen at Ohio State are addicted.

"That's crazy," Crane said.

Under the proposal, anyone found using nicotine in a city park would be charged with a minor misdemeanor, which could result in a fine of up to $150.

Anyone with a previous conviction for violating the ban would be charged with a fourth-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine.

Council members Carolyn Casper, Michele Hoyle and Jim Lynch said at the April 1 conference session they would support the ban.

Casper called the statistics related to young people using nicotine products -- particularly vaping devices -- "frightening."

Lynch said he wouldn't struggle with his decision on the proposal.

"I am going to support this ban," he said. "In today's fast-paced environment, people, residents, they want to get home and they want to go to the parks and they want to enjoy the playgrounds and they want to outdoors.

"I think that can really turn sour if you go to a park and you smell smoke," he said. "Or if you're a kid and you see someone smoking their Juul, you may think that's acceptable.

"It's going to be my pleasure to support this."

Hoyle said she doesn't think people who go to parks deserve "to have their enjoyment of a public place like that harmed by someone else's behavior."

Franklin County Public Health Commissioner Joe Mazzola said the health department fully supports the proposed ban.

Council's April 8 meeting is slated for 7:30 p.m. at the Municipal Services Center, 3600 Tremont Road.

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