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Longview bans smoking in parks

Longview bans smoking in parks

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Within a few weeks, smokers will have one less place to light up in Longview - the city parks. Chewing tobacco won't be allowed either.

The Longview City Council voted 4-2 on Thursday to ban all forms of tobacco from city parks. Five parks will have yet-to-be-determined designated smoking/chewing areas: Lake Sacajawea, Roy Morse Park, John Null Park, Seventh Avenue Park and Gerhart Gardens Park.

The city-owned Mint Valley Golf Course is not included in the ban because its users pay to play.

The ordinance has a two-year sunset clause so the council can easily yank it off the books if it proves unenforceable. A couple of council members had questioned whether it was wise to adopt legislation that wouldn't be enforced. But City Manager Bob Gregory assured the council that just as police respond to reports of fireworks shot off at unauthorized times, the police would respond to complaints about smokers blatantly violating the law.

The violation will be a misdemeanor once the ordinance goes into effect, which is usually 30 days after adoption.

Councilman Chuck Wallace opposed the ordinance because police have higher priorities than busting smokers, he said. Councilwoman Mary Jane Melink, who also voted against it, said she felt the measure is overreaching.

A couple council members questioned how anyone would know if someone had a plug of chew tucked in his lip, but Wallace's proposal to remove chew from the ordinance didn't fly.

The tobacco ban proposal originated from a team appointed to explore ways to improve the community's health through policy changes. The city received a $30,000 federal grant last summer to participate in the ACHIEVE program (Action Communities for Health Innovation and EnVironmental ChangE).

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