Council breathes life into smoking ban
Asmoking ban in Medford parks fired up the City Council Thursday as it pushed for a local law that would allow police to cite offenders.
The council agreed to consider an ordinance to prohibit smoking and tobacco in any park or adjacent sidewalk.
"It drives me crazy in Alba Park," Councilor Eli Matthews said.
The council's directive follows a Parks and Recreation regulation that took effect earlier this month to ban smoking or tobacco products in local parks. Enacting an ordinance would give police the option to cite someone for violating the smoke-free regulation, including on the Bear Creek Greenway.
Alba and Hawthorne parks are often used by smokers. Alba has receptacles that accept cigarette butts, which seems to contradict the recent ruling against smoking in parks.
Brian Sjothun, Parks and Recreation director, said his department is waiting until the city passes an ordinance to come up with signs and other efforts to alert the public to the smoking ban in parks.
"This has been a trend nationwide to eliminate tobacco use in parks," he said.
Sjothun said 902 communities in the U.S. have passed ordinances against smoking in parks.
Ashland prohibits smoking in all city-managed facilities, including parking lots. Bend and Roseburg both have ordinances banning tobacco use.
Sjothun said the proposed ordinance in Medford could include electronic cigarettes, which emit a vapor that has a slight smell compared to cigarettes.
Parks and Recreation staff also contend with the litter left behind from cigarette smokers who throw their butts on the ground.
The council stopped short of wanting to require the same smoking prohibition on public sidewalks because it would prove difficult to enforce.
Councilor Matthews said he wants local hospitals to find a way to prevent their workers from gravitating toward public sidewalks for a cigarette.
"I'd like to see these hospitals provide this space," he said.
Some councilors wondered whether a ban would prove difficult in U.S. Cellular Park, suggesting that a smoking area be created.
Councilor Tim Jackle wondered whether the smoking ban could have a "chilling effect" on attracting national softball tournaments to the park.
Mayor Gary Wheeler said the city already has issues with people smoking in downtown parks, and the situation might get worse once the new Jackson County Health Building is finished later this year.
He said the parks department and law enforcement need to have ways to deal with smoking or consuming tobacco products in the parks.
"I'd like to have a few more tools in the toolbox," he said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.