Smoking survey report presented to local governments
In the last two weeks advocates for regulating smoking at outdoor events in the county have been approaching county and city government officials in the area, asking for support of their cause.
"Last year we performed some surveys that were developed by the Utah Department of Health of 234 community members on how they felt about limiting smoking at these kinds of events," explained April Durrant, Director of the Local Interagency Council to the Carbon County Commission on Jan. 21. "We also did some observations during events around the county and found a lot of people are being exposed to second-hand smoke as well."
Surprisingly, the surveys gathered so far strongly support putting in areas at sporting events and other types of activities where tobacco users can practice their habits without bothering anyone.
"Interestingly, that support came from across the board by non-smokers and even the smokers themselves, "said Durrant.
Georgina Nowak, from the Southeastern Utah Health District also spoke and told the commission that the department has been given the duty to study and work on policy and environmental issues concerning controlling smoking in public areas.
The commission had a discussion about the problems involved in creating a smoke free environment and were concerned about enforcement because the issue affects some private venues as well as public ones. They were concerned about the rights of people and the problems with making areas smoke free.
At the Price City Council meeting on Jan. 28, similar questions arose from council members.
"Would you be looking for ordinances or policy statements to accomplish this?" asked Price Councilman Richard Tatton.
When governments pass policies the enforcement of those policies works in a more mild manner than when an ordinance is passed. Ordinance is law, and that means law enforcement officials must be involved.
It also means money must be employed to enforce new ruling.
"The problem with this kind of thing is that when other agencies want ordinances passed it becomes like an unfunded mandate because there is no money available to pay for enforcement," Mayor Joe Piccolo told the pair. He also wondered about what precedents have been set for creating smoking areas for outdoor events or banning smoking from them altogether.
"The fact is that there is precedent for going smoke free," explained Nowak. "Clinton (in Davis County) has gone totally smoke free and California has made all public events smoke free as well."
During the county commission meeting, Carbon County Sheriff James Cordova pointed out that the issue also affects property rights and what can and can't be done on non-public property.
"I wonder if this will create a public versus private enforcement problem," he said.
Commissioner Steve Burge asked about other tobacco use as well.
"I see this is about all tobacco use, but how do we justify going after people for chewing if they aren't spitting it out," referring to the fact that there is no second-hand smoke problem with those who use chew. "But I see this very doable for the ballparks and the fairgrounds. In Park City during the Olympics they had people in town pointing out places in a very friendly way where people could smoke."
The report that Nowak and Durrant presented to the two ruling bodies was small but comprehensive in what it reported. Based on information that comes from the state, the report says that in 2000 Carbon County was second in the state in tobacco use amongst teens, with 21.4 percent of youth using tobacco.
The area also has the highest asthma rates in the state for children under age 17.
Yet almost 90 percent of students in junior high and high school kids know that smoking is bad for them.
A number of factors influence youth to smoke, including peer pressure.
However the report states that overall only five percent of students in junior high and high school believe that smoking makes people look cool, but amongst smokers the rate of belief in the habit is much higher with 25 percent of high school and 40 percent of junior high students thinking it makes a positive difference in their image.
"The fact is that the younger people are when they start using tobacco, the more likely they are to become addicted," stated Durrant.
The actual Carbon surveys, while only few in number considering the total population in the county, showed some interesting trends.
While banning smoking and chew entirely from events was not met with favor in tobacco using circles, limiting places where people can smoke was given a good a review by almost everyone.
Around 40 percent of non-users said they would like designated smoking areas at rodeos, parks and other outdoor sports facilities while there was actually a slightly higher percentage of present users that preferred it.
Among former tobacco users, the support for designated spots was the highest, with around 55 percent wanting the change.
"We plan to continue to do these surveys to get a bigger sample," Durrant told both the council and the commission. "We just want some support on developing policies that will contribute to good health in our community."