Add some weight to smoking policy

Published 9:24 am Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Did you know that Albert Lea’s parks are tobacco free? If you visit the city’s Parks and Recreation parks regulations page you will discover that this is so. The exact wording is “All parks and facilities are tobacco free.”

So why is the City Council considering a tobacco-free parks ordinance? The challenge with the existing policy is that it is just that — a policy. While it clearly shows the intent of previous councils to eliminate tobacco use in our parks, it does not have any weight behind it. Parents, police, coaches and hosts of events in our parks can request that individuals not smoke but there is nothing to require them to cease and desist.

Why is this important? The state of Minnesota and this community have shown significant progress in the reduction of tobacco use by young people. A recent poll shows that 10.9 percent of high school students had tried traditional cigarettes in the last 30 days. That is down from 18.1 percent in 2011. The efforts that have been made in the last several years are paying dividends. We certainly don’t want to reduce our efforts.

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The best way for us to continue these efforts is to insist that adults set a good example for the youth of our community. Unfortunately, there are a few among the less than 20 percent of adults who identify themselves as smokers who choose not to respect those around them or to set a good example. I am sure that there are few among us who want to be attending a youth sports activity and have those around us smoking any more than we would want them consuming alcoholic beverages.

The use of tobacco has been prohibited on school grounds for a number of years. It only follows that the limitation should be extended to those facilities where our children congregate in the summer and where parents take their children to picnic and play on playground equipment.

In addition, the tobacco-free parks ordinance will protect the facilities that exist in the parks from incidents occurring due to careless smoking. Our beautiful Edgewater Bay Pavilion and the Cottage that was recently restored through the hard work and generosity of the community would be safe.

Tobacco free parks? We have already said that we want them. We strongly encourage the City Council to put weight behind their policy by adopting an ordinance that prohibits smoking in our city parks.


Randy Kehr

National Vitality Center Board

Albert Lea