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Councils ban tobacco use in area parks
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The Covington and Porterdale city councils have both approved ordinances banning the use of tobacco products in city parks and recreation facilities as a part of the tobacco ban ordinance recently approved by the Newton County Board of Commissioners.

The Covington City Council, at its Feb. 5 council meeting, approved the first reading of an ordinance that will soon prohibit the use of tobacco products at Academy Springs Park, Baker Field, Conyers Street Gym, Chimney Park, City Pond Road, Judicial Building Park, Old Cousins Gym, Pactiv Field, Rota-Dyne, South Street Park, Spiller Park, Nelson Heights Community Center, Trailblazers Park and Turner Lake Park.

At a Jan. 22 council meeting, Newton County Recreation Commission director Tommy Hailey asked the council for support of the ordinance.

Laura Bertram, with the Newton County Community Foundation, said the ordinance was not to ban people from using tobacco but create tobacco-free spaces for children who are especially vulnerable to the effects of tobacco.

City Manager Bob Thomson said the city of Porterdale has also adopted the tobacco ban ordinance, which was approved at a council meeting in January. Parks under the tobacco ban in Porterdale include Pine Street, Elm Street, Hemlock Street, Yellow River and the Porterdale Memorial Veterans parks. Thomson said B. C. Crowell Park is also included under the ordinance, but it considered a county park.

The cities of Oxford and Newborn have not yet discussed the tobacco ban ordinance. However, city clerk Lauran Willis said Oxford may discuss the tobacco ban at an upcoming city council work session.

In December 2012, the Newton County Board of Commissioners approved the tobacco ordinance, in which all county owned parks were included.

According to the ordinance, tobacco use would be prohibited in all indoor and outdoor parks and recreational facilities at all times. It will be unlawful for any person to use any form of tobacco, including but not limited to cigarettes, E-cigarettes and smokeless tobacco in all areas of county-owned or operated indoor and/or outdoor parks and recreational facilities, including but not limited to restrooms, athletic fields, rivers, parks, walking/hiking trails, agency-owned vehicles, and spectator and concession areas.

The community, facility users and staff will be notified about the prohibition of the use of tobacco products. Appropriate signs will be posted in all parks and recreational facilities where tobacco is prohibited and the Newton County Recreation Commission will develop an educational campaign to assist in informing citizens about the policy prohibiting tobacco use.

Staff will periodically observe parks and recreational facilities to monitor for compliance and visitors found using tobacco products will be asked to refrain from such use while on parks/recreation property or leave the premises. If visitors using these products refuse, law enforcement officers will be contacted to escort the person off the premises or cite the person for trespassing in case the person refuses to leave the property.

The approved ordinance is scheduled to go into effect on April 1.