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Possible tobacco ban at parks
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The Newton County Recreation Commission presented the Newton County Board of Commissioners with a proposed ordinance that would prohibit the use of tobacco products at county parks and recreation facilities.

The ordinance, which was presented at a Tuesday work session, would ban tobacco use in the proximity of children and adults visiting Newton County-owned or operated parks and recreational facilities. According to the ordinance, tobacco use in these areas is detrimental to children and adults' health and can be offensive to those using these facilities.

Recreation director Tommy Hailey, along with members of recreation commission, discussed why they created the ordinance and felt it was needed.

He shared a slideshow with the board, which listed the dangers of smoking, tobacco-free parks and recreation agencies in Georgia and statistics from the OASIS and the 2012 Georgia Youth Tobacco Survey Summary from the Georgia Department of Public Health.

"We come before you tonight to present a proposed policy that not only will prohibit tobacco use in our parks, but more importantly, we feel like it will help educate the youth of our county about the dangers of using tobacco products," Hailey said.

"NCRC is not trying to take away any adult's right to use tobacco products," he said. "However, we want everyone to enjoy our parks without having to worry about the harmful effects of any tobacco products on children whose lungs and bodies are still developing."

Several months ago, the Newton County Recreation Commission voted unanimously to petition the board of commissioners to enact a tobacco ban in parks and recreation facilities in Newton County.

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.

County-owned or operated parks and recreation facilities under the ordinance include the following: Anderson Field, Baker Field, B.C. Crowell Park, Beaver Park, Chimney Park, City Pond Park, Conyers Street Gym, Denny Dobbs Park, Factory Shoals Recreation Area, Fairview Community Park, Lake Varner, Mary Louise Fowler Park, Old Cousins Gym/Wolverine Field, Pactiv Field, RotaDyne Field, South Street Park, Spillers Park, Stone Road Complex, Trailblazers Park and Turner Lake Park.

Under the notification and enforcement section of the ordinance, it states that the community, facility users and staff will be notified about the prohibition of the use of tobacco products; and that appropriate signs will be posted in all parks and recreational facilities where tobacco is prohibited; and the Newton County Recreations Commission will develop an educational campaign to assist in informing citizens about the policy prohibiting tobacco use.

It also states that the staff will periodically observe parks and recreational facilities to monitor for compliance; and that visitors found using tobacco products will be asked to refrain from such use while on parks/recreation property or leave the premises; and that if they 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.

Commissioners Mort Ewing, Lanier Sims and J.C. Henderson thanked Hailey and the NCRC for their work on the ordinance. Ewing said he hoped the board would consider the resolution as soon as possible.

"I would like to thank you and the recreation commission for all your progress in bringing this ordinance to the board. I do think that it is something that we need to move forward on," Ewing said.

A vote on the proposed ordinance is schedule for the next county commission meeting in December. Hailey said if approved the ordinance would go into effect in April 2013.