Should there be a smoking ban at city parks?

Published 9:55 am Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Amendment would make it a petty misdemeanor to light up

The Albert Lea City Council on Monday approved the first reading of an amended ordinance that would ban smoking at all city-owned parks and workplaces.

The city’s ordinance presently prohibits smoking at City Hall, on the City Arena campus and in its adjacent parking lots.

Ellen Kehr

Ellen Kehr

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“Well-being initiatives are designed to give us better quality of life and help us all live longer, happier and more productive,” said Ellen Kehr, organization lead for the Blue Zones Project.

Kehr, the former Statewide Health Improvement Project coordinator in the area, talked about the health improvements made in Albert Lea in recent years.

She said five years ago, 23 percent of Albert Leans considered themselves smokers. Now, 19 percent do.

Though Albert Lea has a lot of challenges and things it needs to work on, it has a lot of opportunities as well, she said. She noted Albert Lea is higher than the state average when it comes to being active and productive. People are out using the city’s sidewalks, trails, bikeways, parks and other recreational facilities.

“Because we are out and about so much, it’s important to make sure we look for opportunities to make it the healthiest environment we can,” Kehr said.

Albert Lean Phil Wacholz spoke out for younger families and said if smokers self-regulated and used more common courtesy than an ordinance like this would not be needed.

The council will have the second reading of the ordinance and will likely vote on whether to implement the change at their next meeting in April. Violation of the ordinance, if approved, would be a petty misdemeanor.

Kehr encouraged community members to contact the City Council with their opinions on the issue.

“Public input is so tremendously important to you when making decisions by and large for the community,” she said.

A few of the councilors asked the council to consider allowing the city’s wastewater treatment plant to be exempt because of its distance from the rest of the city.