No-smoking in city parks now the law

Playgrounds throughout the City of Warren are now smoke free areas, even if there are no plans in place to enforce the regulation.

Council approved the Parks & Recreation’s Commission to bring the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Young Lungs at Play program to playgrounds in the city during a Monday night city council meeting.

Parks and Recreation Director Mary Ann Nau said that adopting the program requires an amendment to the parks and recreation ordinance and “identifies which (areas) are to be tobacco free.”

Council appeared somewhat skeptical of the idea.

Councilman Jim Zavinski said that, as long-time organizer of Music in the Park, he has “only seen a handful of people smoke. This is not going to hurt anything. When people go in there, they don’t smoke.”

“That’s one park,” Council Vice-president Maurice Cashman said. “I’m just thinking about Betts Park” and the softball leagues that play there.

“There are specific areas outlined,” Councilman Sam Harvey said.

City Manager Nancy Freenock said the designations would be “specifically related to where children would be found.”

Chris Snyder, supervisor of prevention services for Beacon Light, said that they would provide signage where designated. “Often times, having the signs up is enough,” he said.

Councilman Dr. Howard Ferguson, referencing the language in the proposed ordinance, said that he is “interested to see what council thinks as immediately surrounding.” Freenock said that city staff “batted that around” but noted that “the police are not going to be there to issue tickets (but) will be there to remind people.”

She said the intent is to protect children, not penalize smokers.

“It tends to be self-policing,” Nau said. “We have not determined the number of signs necessary” but will work with staff to do so.

Harvey, indicating he has small children and acknowledging that this program is well meaning, said that “I honestly don’t believe in it (the program)” and questioned whether there are “people in an outside environment coming up and blowing smoke in a child’s face.”

“I will have to say I concur,” Cashman said. “I think that has gone too far. Smoking indoors is one thing and smoking outdoors is another. We just pile rules upon rules. This one, I think, it’s a stretch frankly.”

Ferguson explained that there “may be some value there” to the notion that the signage will send a positive message to children.

“I don’t think our signs will do anything, I really don’t,” Zavinski added.

“If we start going down this trail, we will put up signs all over the city” such as on sidewalks, Cashman noted. “(I’m) not sure where this ends.”

When put to a vote, the measure passed 4-3 with Zavinski, Harvey and Cashman the dissenting votes.