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Helper policy restricts smoking where kids play

Sun Advocate associate editor

Helper City has adopted a policy that disallows smoking on public property within 25 feet of any facility where children may be playing.

The policy - which is not the same as an ordinance - was written in a resolution passed unanimously by the city council Thursday. The reason, as stated in the document, is that "the Helper City Council desires to lead by example in protecting adults and youth from being subjected to the effects of second hand smoke."

Specifically, people who are smoking are not allowed near "playgrounds, play structures, bleachers, sports fields, ball diamonds, basketball courts, tennis or volleyball courts, concession stands, skateboard areas, BMX areas and walking pathways for the same."

People who don't comply can be ejected from these areas.

However, since it is a policy and not a law, the city won't have to station police officers at any of these venues to enforce compliance. The sense of the council in previous discussions was that smokers will generally comply if they know where they can and cannot light up. Signs will advise of designated non-smoking areas.

Those who refuse to leave when told by other people could be considered to be "creating a disturbance," Police Chief Trent Anderson told the council at last month's meeting, and there is an ordinance against that.

The council decided to take action on the matter after anti-tobacco activist Stacey Basinger appeared before the council this summer with a long list of health hazards posed by second hand smoke. In addition to those hazards, smoking in or around the stands runs contrary to the rules that little league - and major league - teams set for players, she added.

Mayor Dean Armstrong had advised the council its earlier sessions that an ordinance was not necessary and could be counter-productive for other areas of law enforcement. Since police could not be expected to abandon other responsibilities to enforce such a law, it would amount to having a law on the books that would be nearly meaningless. That could dilute the force of law for other ordinances, Armstrong cautioned.

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