Following its mission of promoting a healthy and inviting environment, Willamalane Park and Recreation District will implement an expanded tobacco and smoke-free policy, effective Oct. 1, 2015. The policy was approved by a vote of 3-0 at the July 8 board meeting, with two members absent.
Willamalane now joins 18 other park districts and departments in Oregon to implement nonsmoking or tobacco-free policies.
Supt. Bob Keefer commended board members for their proactive stance and leadership in making the community’s parks a healthier and more inviting place to recreate and relax.
“This action ties into our mission and goals of promoting health and well-being, and heightens the positive experience of being outdoors, breathing fresh air and enjoying every aspect and every acre of our park system,” said Keefer. He also noted that the policy benefits youth and children, who are most susceptible to secondhand smoke and tend to model the behavior of others.
An additional benefit of the policy, according to the district, is that it will reduce the littering of cigarette butts. Studies show that cigarette butts, one of the most common forms of litter, take five to 10 years to fully decompose, while leaching toxins into the environment and waterways.
While the present policy prohibits smoking in all Willamalane buildings and facilities, and within 50 feet of district property such as playgrounds and picnic areas, the new policy covers the entire park district. It also prohibits all tobacco products and “electronic smoking devices,” defined as an electronic or battery operated device that delivers vapors for inhalation.
To ensure a smooth transition, Willamalane will utilize the three-month grace period to publicize, inform and educate the public about the new policy. New signs will be posted throughout the park district.
Once the policy goes into effect, Willamalane’s initial efforts will be focused towards education and providing cessation resources. As part of that effort, the district will hand out cards informing the public of the new policy and resources to quit smoking.
Keefer said that enforcement has not been a significant issue at other smoke-free parks, and does not see that as being a major issue in this district. However, people who refuse to comply with the new policy could be asked to leave the park.
“It will be an educational and cultural process, but past experience shows that the majority of people are cooperative and compliant once they understand park rules,” said Keefer. “We also know that the majority of park users welcome a smoke-free environment.”
According to a study conducted last year by Lane County Health and Human Services, the majority of those polled welcome restrictions on the use of tobacco outdoors, with 74 percent saying it was important to very important to be protected from secondhand smoke in outside public settings.
Other Oregon park districts and municipalities enacting similar policies include Bend, Medford, Roseburg, Corvallis and Portland.