Streetsboro -- City Council raised the possibility of prohibiting smoking on city properties at its Jan. 13 meeting.
Discussion among Council members and citizens followed the proposal.
Safety Committee Chair John Ruediger brought the issue to the Council's agenda that night and opened discussion regarding a smoking ban on city property.
The city's current smoking law includes signs that require smokers to stand at least 25 feet away from city buildings and youth activities, Ruediger said.
Also, smoking is prohibited on school property altogether, Ruediger said.
Even if smokers are able to light up 25 feet away from buildings, City Council member Tim Claypoole said people usually have to walk near enough to smokers to get a whiff of second-hand smoke.
"I really believe this is progressive and something that I'd like to see our city consider, and I think it would move us forward," Ruediger said. "I really do think, with it being a safety and health issue, it's something we should positively promote in the city."
Council member Regis Faivre said prohibiting smoking on city property might be difficult to enforce, particularly on weekends during outdoor events such as children's Sunday soccer games.
"People ignore signs," said Faivre. "We see that all the time with speed limits and everything else."
Ruediger said he hopes the ordinance would be enforced by residents simply asking smokers to extinguish their cigarettes when lit on city property. Further action could be taken if the person refused to do so, he added
Mayor Glenn Broska said the city would be overstepping its authority in prohibiting smoking on city grounds.
"I know its unhealthy, but it's also legal," said Broska. "It's just another thing that regulates what people can do. You're turning people into criminals for a legal activity."
Even if no one were around to be affected by second-hand smoke, Ruediger said many locations, such as trails at City Park, do not offer proper receptacles for cigarette butts. Improper disposal could result in a fire during warmer months.
"It comes down to common courtesy for your fellow man," Broska said. "I mean, you're talking about a legal activity here. I can go to the store, and I can buy cigarettes. To have it where it is a complete ban on city property, I think we're just infringing on an individual's ability to do something legal."
Claypoole said people have the right to smoke but should do so on their own property because nonsmokers often do not have a choice in inhaling second-hand smoke when cigarettes are lit in close proximity.
Resident Pearl Pullman says she and her daughter suffer from asthma and have left events, due to unwanted cigarette smoke.
"I do not like to infringe on other people's rights," Pullman said. "But your rights do not trump my rights to breathe, and I do not, however, see how you can enforce most of the rules you're putting out today."
Chuck Kocisko, a former Council member who described himself as a nonsmoker, said the city should work on enforcing the smoking regulations they have in place now. He said toughening the law would involve "too much government" in people's lives.
Emerylde Bradley, a former Council member who describes herself as a nonsmoker, said many airports rope off designated smoking areas away from main entrances outside buildings. With that arrangement, she said no one's rights are violated.
"This can be done at any park," she said. "They just go out of sight, out of mind, smoke their cigarettes and everybody lives happily ever after."
Resident Carmen Laudato who describes herself as a nonsmoker said the students of Streetsboro City Schools often know and recognize city officials. Fifth-grade students are currently learning about the effects of smoking through the going through the DARE program.
"They know you," she told Council members. "You're in the schools. You're out front. A lot of people sitting up here are very active with the youth. You have to understand that you are setting an example."
She said her daughters are in DARE this year and are learning and writing about the dangers of smoking, among other things and are being asked to sign pledges not to smoke.
"Then they're coming out in the community and see representatives of our city smoking away," said Laudato.
Council members asked Law Director David Maistros to bring to the next safety committee meeting examples other municipalities' smoking laws, ranging from complete bans to partial bans with designated smoking areas.
The public is free to comment on the issue at Council meetings, but there will not be a dedicated public hearing, said Broska.
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