A proposed ordinance intended to address air quality and litter issues at Conway parks by banning smoking has been revised, calling now for the creation of designated smoking areas rather than banning tobacco use outright.
Consideration of the revised ordinance is on the Conway City Council agenda for Tuesday night’s meeting.
Aldermen discussed in January an ordinance banning the use of any sort of tobacco anywhere in city parks, with the need for such an ordinance evidenced at that meeting by a pair of plastic jugs filled with cigarette butts collected from Laurel Park — mostly near the playground — by members of the Asian Pacific Coalition for Smoke Free Arkansas.
Parks Director Brian Knopp said on Saturday that his office has "hardly gotten any comment from the general public" since the subject came up in January, but some park department employees have been concerned about it.
"We have several employees who do smoke or do dip, and if you’re at work for 8 hours a day, where you can’t smoke or dip in the vehicle, if they couldn’t smoke or dip in the parks, some of them were going to be a little concerned about that," Knopp said.
Another group that Knopp said he hadn’t yet heard from, but would expect to if an outright ban on tobacco was effected, are the adults who play sports on city ballfields.
Most of the athletes frequenting city parks are former or current college ballplayers, Knopp said, "and while it’s not a requirement," a degree of smokeless tobacco use among men on the baseball or softball field is typically a given.
While a designated smoking spot with a cigarette butt disposal station would seem a reasonable solution to employees, adult athletes or visitors who need to step aside and indulge their habit, it can’t be so reasonably expected for a softball game to stop for several minutes while many of the players gather around a communal spitoon erected at the park’s edge.
It’s here, Knopp said, that some "common sense" will have to be used in enforcing any parks tobacco policy.
"The only problem we have with (smokeless tobacco) is when people spit in trash cans or on the sidewalk," Knopp said, going on to say that, as far as he’s concerned, someone spitting into a bottle with a cap or a disposable cup with paper towel "wadding" to prevent spills wouldn’t be posing a public nuisance.
"Of course however the council wants to go, we’ll go in that direction," he added, "but I do think some common sense will be used in it."
(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached at 505-1238 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)