Delaware City Council last week continued its long-running discussion of a proposed ban on smoking and vaping at Delaware's parks and recreation facilities, this time mulling whether it would apply to parks in their entirety or only parts of them.
First discussed last July, the proposed ban reached council in March in the form of an ordinance to ban use of tobacco and vaping products at city-owned recreational facilities.
In a unanimous vote March 11, council members changed the proposal to exclude smokeless tobacco and to add language identifying the types of recreation facilities where the ban would apply.
The amended ordinance was on the agenda March 25, when council opened a hearing -- which was continued April 8 -- on the ban.
The amended ordinance 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."
Six residents endorsed the ban March 25; four gave their approval during the April 8 meeting.
The April 8 speakers included two mothers of children with asthma.
Brittany Siminger said she wants parks to be entirely smoke-free, because tobacco smoke can trigger an asthma attack in her son.
She said she has had to remove him from soccer games and parks when someone nearby was smoking.
Siminger said she understands "parks are public places (and) it's our choice to take our kids there -- but at the same time, what is the harm of asking our smoking community to respect the lungs of those who are most vulnerable?
"Hundreds of children in the Delaware community ... also have vulnerable lungs and ... could be harmed by someone else's choices," she said.
Angie Macwhinney said she and her 8-year-old child have asthma. She said they have had to wait out rain showers under park shelters with people smoking nearby.
"I highly encourage all of you to completely ban all tobacco products in our parks," she said.
Macwhinney and Robert Dalton are on the city's parks and recreation advisory board.
Dalton told council, "Parks should promote healthy lifestyles and choices," adding the city shouldn't allow any tobacco use in parks.
Council member George Hellinger read a prepared statement that quoted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as saying "no risk-free level of exposure" exists regarding tobacco smoke, and that secondhand smoke kills more than 40,000 Americans annually.
"There is no constitutional right to smoke. Smoking is not a specially protected liberty or privacy right," said Hellinger, who endorsed modifying the ordinance to include the whole of all city parks.
Council member Lisa Keller -- who March 11 suggested removing smokeless tobacco from the ordinance -- said April 8, "I was pretty firm in my position and I'm feeling swayed. ... I think my mind is changed."
Council member Kent Shafer said everyone agrees "smoking is bad" and that he wouldn't discredit Hellinger's remarks, but said his position hasn't changed.
"I think it's an overreach to say somebody can't walk on the path (going by a city park) by themselves and smoke. ... I think we have to be reasonable about what kind of laws we pass."
Several council members discussed the fact the city-owned Hidden Valley Golf Course -- where beer is sold -- is exempt from the proposed ban.
Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle said she doesn't know if golfers smoke when they play, but she wouldn't want to dissuade customers from using the course.
City parks and natural resources Director Ted Miller said a survey of Hidden Valley golfers could be an option.