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Lorain Council Parks committee debates no-smoking policy

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LORAIN — Residents could soon see a no-smoking policy on city property.

Council’s Parks and Recreation Committee discussed the measure, originally sent to it as an ordinance, at its meeting Monday evening after discussions in October.

Many Council members and the administration agreed it should be a policy rather than an ordinance — as Lorain police have other problems to worry about.

Safety/Service Director Dan Given noted an uptick in drive-by shootings the department has been focusing on. He listed 10 addresses where shootings have occurred since March 21 — one as recently as Sunday night when one person was shot at the Marshall Plaza Apartments.

“I think everyone agrees that the use of bans is a way to change behavior and disassociate ourselves with the advertising and marketing that may go along with tobacco use in society these days. Let’s be realistic, people should not have to choose between enjoying places that are outside and breathing clean air.”

He said while a policy can’t be traditionally enforced by tickets or charges, the policy could further push an already-moving cultural shift. With a policy, a city employee or Lorain County Metro Parks worker could ask someone to leave if they want to smoke, and if they refuse and become belligerent, Lorain police can be called to ask the person to leave.

Passing around brightly colored mock-ups of no-smoking signs, Councilman Greg Argenti, I-Ward 4, noted most people will respect the signs, and there are very few who would be so stubborn to smoke in spite of them.

Resident Denver Casto supported the proposed policy.

“I think this will be a deterrent,” he said. “It may take people a while to get used to it, when I was smoking I didn’t like it. I thought you’d taken something away from me. I figured I’m paying for the cigarettes, I’m paying the taxes but now that I don’t smoke, I do understand — that I was infringing on somebody’s rights and I did not have that right just because I spent the money.”

Another resident, Abbey Gleason disagreed, in favor of the ordinance that Lorain police could enforce.

“This ordinance is not meant to put one more thing on police, as they are already very busy, it’s rather to afford citizens who do not smoke — especially our youth — the opportunity to engage in physical activity outdoors without compromising their health,” she said.

She also asked why it had taken so long for the legislation to come before Council again: The measure was originally introduced in October and discussed in committee then, before being tabled until the April 1 Council meeting when it was referred to Monday’s committee. Councilman and committee chairperson Mitch Fallis, D-at large, said the issue talked about in October prompted the law department to draft an ordinance, but it didn’t go straight back to the committee.

Kat Bray, health education specialist with Lorain County Public Health, highlighted some of the health consequences of tobacco use, as well as the growing problem LCPH is seeing with e-cigarette use, as those products still do contain nicotine. She said the proposed policy could limit use, and that Lorain County Public Health believes Lorain could be a “healthier community” if a smoking ban or policy went into effect.

If passed, Lorain would join Wellington, Oberlin, Sandusky, Avon Lake and North Ridgeville with a smoking ban or policy on the books. Since 2006 the state has banned smoking in public places including bars and restaurants.

The administration or law department will need to create a resolution for Council to put a no-smoking policy in effect. Fallis doubted the policy could be drafted by the regular meeting April 15, and any policy the city creates would need to be in line with its current guidelines on employee smoking.

Contact Carissa Woytach at (440) 329-7245 or cwoytach@chroniclet.com.


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