We applaud the Parkersburg City Council Public Works Committee's passage of a resolution this week to ban tobacco products within 15 feet of municipal playgrounds.
We were surprised by the questioning by some members of city council of whether the measure was needed.
Of course it is needed.
First, there is the health aspect of second-hand smoke. It is bad enough for adults to endure, but children playing at a playground should never be subjected to this hazard.
Second and equally important, to prevent children from crawling around in cigarette butts, snuff that has been spit out and all other manner of tobacco filth left in the playground mulch.
"I've had complaints about teenagers smoking in the playgrounds. We don't have the manpower to clean up all of that. Keeping these places clean is difficult and that's the real benefit I see," Jamie Jacobson, a regional tobacco prevention coordinator with the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, told the committee.
The resolution, which goes to the full council for a vote, would permit the health department to display signs at the playgrounds stating the areas are tobacco-free zones. It also would allow police to issue citations to tobacco users caught using at the city-owned facilities.
The discussion before the committee of city council brought out heated disagreement from councilmen over the issue of smokers' rights and even the definition of a playground. These were red herrings to illogically draw us away from the issue, that children should be able to enjoy a safe, healthy area free of cigarette smoke or the filth left behind by smokers and tobacco users.
What about the rights of non smokers who, besides the issue of second-hand smoke, do not have or want the right to subsidize the health care of smokers through increased insurance and medical costs?
"I can appreciate smokers saying they have the right to smoke anywhere they want, but you don't," Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell said. "You shouldn't. You can't do it in places where you would harm another's health, and we're talking about small children here."