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Sun Advocate associate editor and KEVIN SCANNELL
Sun Advocate reporter

Armed with health statistics about the dangers of second-hand smoke and the anti-tobacco rules of baseball's major leagues and little leagues, Stacey Basinger has been making the rounds of local city councils asking for laws to keep smoke away from ball fields where children are playing.

"There's no Constitutional right to smoke anywhere you want," she declared before the councils of Wellington, Helper and Price. She insisted that the right to light up ends when it might harm other people's health.

Basinger said she would like to see city ordinances outlawing smokers from coming within 25 to 50 feet of the stadium.

The anti-tobacco advocate cited studies showing that second-hand smoke may carry more toxins and carcinogens that what smokers inhale. To her, smokers have a choice about what they breathe in, but bystanders don't have that choice.

While the little leagues can set rules for players, these rules do not have the force of law that an ordinance would in regulating the behavior of spectators in the stands. Even though smoking is discouraged, she said, the could always be people who would be inconsiderate enough to light up in the bleachers.

To get a better idea of how others involved with the league and residents around the area feel about the issue, Basinger said she presented a questionnaire to people asking for their opinions on the subject. Out of the 665 people who participated, 655 signed a petition in favor of creating an ordinance.

"We're not asking for a ban," Basinger explained, "but a boundary."

At the very least Basinger said the cities should look into a boundary of 25 feet around the baseball fields. While that is a possible solution, Price City Councilwoman Kathy Hanna-Smith said that Price City could look into the possibility of pushing the boundaries further out to 50 feet. How the cities choose, or not choose, to implement an ordinance, Basinger's request is simple: the further away the better.

Many Price City council members said the ordinance should be a self-enforcing rule. Councilman Richard Tatton said that the ordinance would be complaint-driven, requiring people to work out possible problems that arise. Signs in the area near the baseball fields would promote no smoking and a certain boundary line that must be adhered to help push the ordinance to the public.

To further illustrate how an ordinance would be implemented, Basinger presented the council with a list of cities around the state and the tobacco ordinances they enforce. One city in particular, Tooele, has an ordinance that prevents the use of tobacco products in many city areas including sports fields, playgrounds and parks.

While the issue being discussed concerns smoking near the youth sport fields, it may bring a glimpse into possible factions on a countywide level. While throwing her support behind the push to create an ordinance, Hanna-Smith said it is a "big disappointment" that an ordinance concerning smoking is not implemented on a city and countywide basis in parks and other public areas. Hanna-Smith cited laws passed in many states in recent years that have banned smoking within bars.

"We quit smoking in bars, but we still allow smoking in our parks," she explained.

At all of the local parks within Price City, signs have been placed saying that the community supports a smoke-free environment and promotes healthy living. While she has been out around the city's parks, Basinger said she has run across people leaning against a tree in a park smoking a cigarette just a few feet away from one of the city-placed signs.

Price City Mayor Joe Piccolo said the signs are a critical part in the city's efforts to promote a healthy living style. Should a possible ordinance be enacted, Piccolo said a combination of both promotion and education will be key to getting people to understand the issues at hand.

"It would be a weak attempt to try and do anything if you don't have signs like at Price City parks," Piccolo explained.

While keeping tobacco products away from children at sport fields is a chief concern for Basinger and others, there is some worry that creating more ordinances away from the playing fields could further ostracize tobacco users, Councilwoman Jeanne McEvoy said.

"Some smokers say they feel ostracized because they smoke," McEvoy said. While she supports continuing a combination of both education and promotion of healthy living, McEvoy said this all boils down to one thing: choice.

"Choosing to smoke is a choice," she said.

The Price City council passed a motion that will have the city research over a 30-day period how an ordinance could be enacted. All council members were in favor of the motion, but Councilwoman McEvoy abstained from the vote.

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