City to Consider Smoking Ban in Parks

Council to Address Vaping

Marshfield, WI (OnFocus) The Common Council will consider whether to adopt an ordinance that would prohibit smoking in city parks.

While a city policy has already existed to that effect since 2007, the ordinance would allow the measure to be enforced by police.

The policy was revised at the September Parks, Forestry, and Recreation Committee meeting to include vaping products. The revision also expanded the scope of no-smoking areas from certain places like bleachers and playgrounds to all areas of the parks, with the exception of parking lots, sidewalks, and other areas designated for smoking.

During that committee meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Justin Casperson said the department periodically gets complaints about smokers near playgrounds and at Wenzel Family Plaza, when children are playing in the water fountain or people are attending concerts.

Police Chief Rick Gramza addressed police enforcement of the proposed ordinance. “Like many of our ordinances, we can’t be everywhere at once. We’d love to be, but our best efforts are to enforce something such as this once there’s a complaint,” he said. “There would be challenges with having consistent enforcement, but we would definitely respond and act accordingly upon witnessing it or being called to somebody smoking in the park.”

Casperson said that appropriate signage would be placed to educate the public about where smoking is allowed or prohibited.

“I hate cigarette smoking,” said Alderman Rebecca Spiros. “But it is a legal substance and there’s point in time where infringing on personal rights of people — I just have an issue with that. And banning a legal substance, especially in an outdoor environment, I’m going to have to really consider this.”

“We’re not forbidding smoking, we’re just forbidding smoking in certain places that are used by the public and paid for by everyone…” said Alderman Steve MacSwain. “What we’re doing is stopping them from infringing on the freedom of other people to enjoy those things without having to deal with those kinds of products.”

Alderman Tom Buttke said in addition to smoking itself, he was also concerned by smokers littering in parks.

The city attorney advised the Council that there needs to be a rationale for the ordinance, such as for health and safety. Alderman Spiros advised Casperson to present findings from health studies on the effects of second-hand smoke in an outdoor setting.

Final approval will be placed on the agenda for the Nov. 12 Common Council meeting.

For educational purposes, early in the meeting the Council also listened to a presentation on e-cigarettes and vaping by representatives from the Central Wisconsin Tobacco Free Coalition with Marathon County Health Department, and the Center for Community Health Advancement with Marshfield Clinic Health System.

At the Sept. 10 Common Council meeting, an alderman had proposed a city vaping ban as a future agenda item for discussion in response to the national lung injury outbreak associated with vaping products, particularly those containing THC.

According to the presentation, 1 in 5 Wisconsin high school students use e-cigarettes, and 1 in 9 middle schoole students. The results of the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey in the School District of Marshfield reported that 9.4 percent of 562 surveyed tenth and twelfth grade students reported using e-cigarettes in the previous 30 days.

Just-released data for Wood County revealed that 21 percent of high school students are current users, and 41 percent have ever used e-cigarettes.

City staff is looking into current ordinance regarding smoking and will address a few options for the Council’s consideration at a future meeting.

Kaylin S
Author: Kaylin S

Kaylin Speth is a Marshfield native with a bachelor's degree in English from UW-Green Bay. She enjoys highlighting the many great things happening in the community and bringing to life the untold stories. Email the team at [email protected]