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VAN BUREN -- The City Council has passed an ordinance banning smoking in the city's parks.

The ordinance, which went into effect immediately upon its passage Tuesday, prohibits the use of all tobacco products plus e-cigarettes and vaping products from Van Buren's six parks.

City Planning Director Joe Hurst said tobacco use also will be banned from the city's newest park, Freedom Park, when it is dedicated Friday.

"The purpose of this ordinance is to preserve and protect the public health, safety and welfare by prohibiting smoking and other tobacco use in city parks," a portion of the ordinance said.

Excluded from the ban, Hurst said, will be property leased by the city to Cedars Golf Course and Country Club, Van Buren Boys and Girls Club, marina property "and any other property currently under lease with the city wherein the lease does not specify that tobacco products are not to be used on the property."

The parks under the ban are Mr. Chad and Betty Ann Colley Wilderness Park, Dr. Louis Peer Memorial Park, Field of Dreams Sports Complex, Mike Meyers Park and Van Zandt Park.

A draft ordinance went before the City Council after being approved by the city's Parks and Recreation Commission in March. Hurst said the idea for the ordinance arose from action Fort Smith officials took in February to ban smoking from the city's parks.

During the discussion before the commission, Hurst said, one man said he opposed the ban, saying it violated his right to be a smoker and could prohibit him from using the city's parks.

The ordinance included statements about the dangers of smoking, such as the number of people who die each year from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke; smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States; and secondhand smoke exposure in certain outdoor areas poses a significant health risk.

Signs notifying people of the ban will be posted in conspicuous places in the parks, according to the ordinance.

Anyone convicted of violating the ban will be liable for a $25 fine for a first offense, $50 for a second offense, $100 for a third offense and $250 for a subsequent offense, the ordinance said.

In addition to health reasons, cities and counties have turned to banning tobacco use from parks because tobacco-free parks can have an advantage in the competition for grant money, officials have said.

Metro on 06/28/2017

Print Headline: Van Buren approves tobacco ban in parks

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