LORAIN — Smoking could be banned in the city’s parks, following the Parks and Recreation Committee’s discussion Monday evening.
Chairman Mitch Fallis, D-at large, said the issue was brought up after Council received a letter over the summer from a resident. Now, the committee will ask the city’s law department to draft an ordinance banning smoking at city-owned or -leased parks, piers, bicycle paths and other outdoor recreation areas. He was not looking to include all city-owned property.
“A citizen of Lorain made the recommendation and so we took that recommendation and decided to work on it and come up with at least some talking points tonight to consider putting in the ordinance,” Fallis said.
Those in attendance were onboard with the ordinance, with residents and Council members alike highlighting the health effects of tobacco use, and the litter it leaves behind.
Health education specialist with Lorain County Public Health Kay Bray agreed, explaining the difference between a tobacco-free or smoke-free policy.
“Smoke-free environments are healthier environments, and we have some experience as the county health department with helping city entities, parks, worksites, etc., with implementing smoke-free policies and tobacco-free policies. The difference is just that smoke-free policy would be strictly prohibiting smoking, whether its an e-cig, vaping device or cigarette. 100 percent tobacco free would include things like chew (tobacco) and some of those other tobacco products.”
She said if legislation does move forward, LCPH can help the city get free or low-cost signage for its parks.
The ordinance would not include Black River Landing, as that area is owned by the Lorain Port Authority, not the city. But it could include land leased to the county Metro Parks — like Lakeview Beach — depending on specifics in the lease agreement, Fallis said. Currently, Lakeview Park is tobacco free, but it was a rule and not an official policy, meaning violators can’t be ticketed for continuing to smoke.
A sticking point for council and the public was enforcement. While other cities’ ordinances state any city employee can tell someone to stop using tobacco, only police or park rangers can issue tickets for those who ignore those commands, Chief of staff Phile Dore said. In other cities, violating smoking bans are minor misdemeanors.
“So ultimately, only a police officer could enforce the ordinance because they would have to be charged with a minor misdemeanor,” Dore said. “They could be directed or instructed to cease smoking, but only the police officer could enforce it.”
Residents were unsure if enforcement would be feasible, given the sheer number of ordinances Lorain has on its books.
Resident Denver Casto said it wasn’t a bad ordinance, but questioned the logistics of it.
“What I’m seeing and what I’m hearing, if you have a city employee, which is just another individual that is employed by the city trying to tell somebody or physically trying to force someone to do something, I think you aught to look at the logistics of that to see what would fall back on the city, because you are responsible for all your employees.”
He went on, suggesting at some point the city look at its policy on tobacco sales within city limits.
“I think we ought to take a serious look at what you have and I’m not saying that it’s bad, I’m a nonsmoker,” Casto said. “I smoked for years, but I quit. But if we go ahead and allow cigarettes to be sold in the city, you allow vapers to be sold in the city, what are we sending forth to the community. Maybe that’s something we ought to look at too, some changes farther down the road.”
William Madanski agreed with the legislation, after he had multiple run-ins with people smoking near children or using tobacco over the summer.
“You can’t smoke in bars, so why the hell should you smoke where the public’s at?” he asked.
Abby Gleason, who lives across from Lakeview Park and her and her husband find cigarette butts everywhere after summer softball games. She suggested signage would allow not only city employees, but other residents, to make smokers aware of the law — and that banning smoking would serve to beautify the city.
“We’re looking at do we want to stay in Lorain or not and you have the schools that are already having all of their problems — this is one simple thing you could do that would pretty much be like $0 that would cost you to do, that would eventually improve the city a little bit,” she said.
Fallis was unsure how quickly the law department could draft the legislation, but suspected at the latest the first reading would be during Council’s second regular meeting next month.