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Helper close to ball parks no-smoking policy

Sun Advocate associate editor

It will be a policy - not a law - but the signs will say no smoking within 25 feet of Helper's baseball fields.

After hearing a presentation from anti-tobacco advocate Stacey Basinger last month, the council agreed to look into the feasibility of banning smoking in and around its ball parks. What they and city attorney Gene Strate found was that there is a spectrum of ways for cities to deal with the issue, ranging from banning smoking on all municipal property to keeping smokers away from children's play areas to simply posting signs where smoking is discouraged.

Mayor Dean Armstrong opposed the idea of putting a no smoking law on the books. "When we have an ordinance that is not going to be aggressively and actively enforced, it serves to dilute the force of law for the other ordinances," he told the council and the audience, which included Basinger.

If city law says that smoking is a misdemeanor or infraction, it means that police are obligated to enforce it, he added. Police have other things to do.

And suppose groups renting city property for such things as family reunions in the park pavilion happen to include smokers and nobody complains about it? Would the city have to cite people for that, too? The mayor said he was concerned about possible loss of rental revenue or tourism in the city that such an ordinance might cause.

Debbie Marvidikis of the Southeastern Utah Health District called that "an unfounded fear," saying that restaurants are still in business even though state law has banned smoking indoors.

"Second hand smoke is toxic. We have the right and the duty to protect children," she stated.

Councilmen Robert Bradley and Brandon Wise thought the 25-foot rule around ball fields was reasonable.

The back-and-forth exchange of ideas eventually produced a compromise: the city could adopt a policy by resolution keeping smoking out of the ballparks and the 25-foot buffer zone around them.

Wise suggested that it could be self-enforcing, as people seeing no-smoking signs would know that they shouldn't light up.

If they insist, and people complain about it, then the act moves into creating a disturbance, which is a law the police already can enforce, explained police chief Trent Anderson.

The council should have a resolution to vote on at its October meeting.

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