The city of Upper Arlington has joined a growing list of Ohio communities in banning smoking in all its public parks.

Additionally, action passed unanimously by Upper Arlington City Council on April 22 prohibits the use of electronic cigarettes and other vaping devices from all public parks in the city.

In passing the ban, Councilwoman Sue Ralph said it's another step in city officials' efforts to prioritize community health and safety and guiding good decisions among young people.

Councilwoman Michele Hoyle said the ban reinforces positive behavior.

"This, in my opinion, is No. 1 and one place where a person's habit not only affects them but those around them," Hoyle said. "Also, having been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time at (Upper Arlington High School), those students have repeatedly said how concerned they are about the problem of vaping at the high school.

"Any time we can make this something that is not acceptable, it's positive, in my view."

The ban will go into effect May 22.

Violators of the ban could be charged with a minor misdemeanor, which could result in a fine of up to $150.

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

The ban in parks comes after council took action in June 2015 to make Upper Arlington the first city in Ohio to establish 21 as the minimum age for buying tobacco, electronic cigarettes and liquid nicotine.

According to Cheryl Smoot, an Upper Arlington resident and vice president of development for the American Lung Association of Midland States -- which represents Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee -- about 1,500 cities in the U.S. have prohibited smoking and nicotine use in public parks.

Delaware on April 22 also passed similar legislation to ban smoking and vaping in its city parks.

Despite those efforts, Smoot said, 20,000 Ohio residents die each year because of smoking-related diseases and 21.5% of Ohioans are nicotine users.

"I strongly support the idea of limiting the exposure of young people to people smoking and normalizing that in their minds in places of recreation and relaxation," Smoot said. "Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in Ohio."

Smoot added that a 2017-18 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a 78% increase in the use of e-cigarettes among high school students in one year's time.

"This equals 1 million additional kids beginning to use e-cigarettes," she said.

In addition to Smoot, the ordinance was supported by Franklin County Public Health.

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, also called for passage of the ban, as did J. Nick Baird, an Upper Arlington resident and former director of the Ohio Department of Health.

"I think this ordinance makes sense," Baird said. "It makes the most sense because we want to be a healthy community -- we want to be the healthiest community in this state."

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