Parkersburg City Council approves tobacco policy

PARKERSBURG – The city’s playgrounds are now tobacco-free zones.

City Council Tuesday approved a resolution prohibiting the use of all tobacco products within 15 feet of a city playground.

The resolution passed 6-3, with council members Nancy Wilcox, Sharon Lynch and Roger Brown voting against. The vote followed a spirited discussion and an attempt by Brown to table the resolution for a year.

“It’s not fair to the smokers; it’s not fair to Parkersburg,” Brown said. “This is over the line.”

As part of his amendment tabling the resolution, Brown demanded the city install benches and ashtrays at the playgrounds so parents could sit and smoke while watching their children. Brown argued the ashtrays would solve the city’s tobacco litter issue.

Mayor Bob Newell disagreed, saying council did not have the authority to require the city’s administration to add amenities.

“The last thing I want to do is make it comfortable for smokers,” Newell said. “I’m not putting ashtrays in, I can tell you that. I’d rather see you vote this up or down tonight. Don’t make us jump through hoops just because you don’t want to vote.”

City Attorney Joe Santer agreed with Newell, saying council could not order the administration to install benches and ashtrays. Santer said council could only vote on an amendment to delay the tobacco resolution by a year.

The amendment was defeated, with only Lynch, Brown and John Kelly voting in support.

Wilcox said the proposed tobacco ban for playgrounds was part of the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department’s efforts to outlaw all smoking.

The health department already has banned smoking in businesses, and Wilcox said if the health department wants to expand those rules, it should take responsibility for the decision.

“When the city makes decisions, we take the heat,” Wilcox said. “If they (the health department) want this, they should do this and they should take the heat.”

Brown also continued to argue against the tobacco ban, saying it was infringing on the rights of smokers.

“This is not an inside facility. This is free air,” he said. “You’re taking the rights away from one person for the benefit of another.”

Council President Jim Reed interrupted, saying Brown’s amendment had been defeated and called for a vote of the main resolution.

With passage of the tobacco ban, the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department will place tobacco-free zone signs up at city playgrounds. Those caught violating the ban could face up to a $500 fine.