Leaders of the local tobacco advisory committee approached the Price City Council during a public meeting last Wednesday.
The members of the advisory panel asked the Price officials to consider approving a resolution setting aside designated areas for smoking at outdoor venues and events taking place within the city's boundaries.
"While there are a lot of people who think second hand smoke outdoors is not a problem, that same smoke has proven to be a killer indoors," said Shirley Coyne, the director of the group. "It is certainly annoying for some people."
The group approached the council a few months ago about the issue. But members of the advisory panel felt the committee needed to research local opinions before the group would have definitive information for the council.
The advisory committee has collected more than 300 surveys of people in attendance at various events.
Many individuals responding to the surveys indicated they would not be opposed to designating areas for smokers to use during outdoor events.
"One of our main interests right now is at the parks and the ball fields in town," stated Coyne. "We are looking for smoke-free areas there or at least some smoking zones."
The group is recommending Price city's approval of a resolution, not the adoption of an outdoor smoking ordinance. Compliance would be voluntary rather than forced by law.
"The fact is, that as we have talked with them, most smokers are willing to step aside when they smoke so that they don't annoy other people," said Georgina Nowak of the Southeastern Utah Health District.
But some members of the council had concerns about how a resolution would affect smokers and non-smokers alike.
"Let's say we do this and there is an event," said Councilwoman Jeanne McEvoy. "Who would get the prime spots at an event? Should the smoke-free group get the best spots to view or participate in it or should the smokers? I worry that we are becoming intolerant of those who smoke. Anything we do would certainly need to be voluntary or I could not support it."
Councilman Joe Christman, who represents the city on the committee, explained the focus of the group on a resolution and how members are thinking in terms of preserving everyone's rights.
"All enforcement on any such resolution would only be advisory and educational," stated Christman. "Nothing here is intended in a punitive way. We want to recognize the rights of all. We compared what the focus of the committee was to the rights of the general public and we believe expanding on the courtesy aspect of smoking would be a good path to take."
The group handed out a brochure which explained smoke free policies and how those states and cities that enacted them have not been hurt in any way. But the group also reinforced the fact that each year 50,000 people die from exposure to second hand smoke, the majority dying from heart disease after being exposed smoke over an extended period of time.
"You know when this state first divided restaurants into smoking and non-smoking sections everyone said it would be so hard to deal with, but it wasn't," stated Coyne. "Then we went to totally smoke free restaurants and the same complaints surfaced. Now it's the norm, and people overall seem to like it."
Statistics seem to back up Coyne's contention that people feel good about smoking restrictions. In fact in some cases businesses involved seem to have thrived on them. For instance a survey of 30,000 restaurant patrons done this year in New York City, which recently banned smoking from restaurants altogether, showed that 23 percent said they were eating out more and that only 4 percent said they were eating out less because of the smoke free law.
The council decided to not pass a resolution of any sort at the present time, but asked the committee to keep working on how smoking areas could be set up and to report back when they have more definite plans.
The council also got an update from A.J. Knight on the shared use that the skate park has been having between bicyclists and skaters.
"It's been going pretty good," he said concerning the councils decision a couple of months ago to try shared usage of the park. "There haven't been any problems that I have seen between the two groups."
When the park was built a few years ago it was set up just as a skate park and because of safety concerns bikes were not allowed. But after years of experience with the park and conversations with those that want to use the park in both ways, the council decided to give the dual usage a opportunity to work.
"With the bikes there now a bigger park it would work better," said Knight.
The council discussed the possibility of expanding the park and asked Knight if he and the group with him would still want to keep the park dual use if it was expanded. They seemed to think that would be fine.
The council decided to think the situation over and at the regular Nov. 10 council meeting they will decide if the dual use will become a permanent designation.