Smoking in city parks will still be allowed, at least for now.
At Monday night’s council meeting, Klamath Falls City Council members roundly rejected a proposed ordinance that would have banned the use of tobacco products in city parks, although several remained open to a less restrictive ordinance that would ban smoking only around areas where children play.
The proposed ordinance came from a survey conducted by the Klamath County Tobacco Prevention and Education Program in collaboration with the Oregon Health Authority.
Of the 284 citizens surveyed, 80 percent felt it was important for parks to be tobacco free.
A number of people spoke on behalf of the ordinance, claiming that tobacco use in parks causes health risks, creates litter that is costly to clean up and harmful to the environment, and increases the risk of fire.
“Parks were created to provide the opportunity for all community members to play and recreate in a safe and healthy place,” said Molly Jespersen, a program manager for health promotion and disease prevention at Klamath County Public Health. “Allowing tobacco use in the parks is contrary to that purpose.”
Kiger Association President Don Ambers said he agreed with the ordinance, but would seek an exemption for the use of chewing tobacco at Kiger Stadium. Ambers said at least 75 percent of the baseball players use tobacco on the field.
“You’re going to ask me to go out there and tell people to spit it out or they can’t play?” Ambers said. “I don’t think that will happen.”
The overwhelmingly positive testimony did little to sway the Council’s stance on the ordinance, which hinged on the position that the city should not smother the community with rules and regulations.
“I’m a non-smoker, but I think the whole society has gotten carried away with telling people they can’t do something,” said Councilman Bill Adams. “Until the state of Oregon says you can’t smoke in public, I’m not willing to go along with something like this.”
Adams’ view was echoed by Councilmen Bud Hart and Dan Tofell.
“We’re just over-regulating our society,” Hart said. “We’re putting too many restrictions rather than relying on good sense and good manners.”
Tofell also raised concerns about enforcement of the policy, despite Molly Jespersen’s testimony that the 23 other cities in Oregon with a similar ban reported that the ordinance was largely self-enforcing with appropriate signage.
Both Tofell and Councilman Matt Dodson said they would support an ordinance that was less restrictive. Ultimately, city staff was directed to craft an ordinance that focused on banning smoking only around playgrounds and soccer fields, while including a tobacco use exemption for Kiger Stadium.
The revised ordinance will be brought before the Council at a time yet to be determined.