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City council looks at ordinance banning smoking and tobacco and marijuana use in public parks

Smoking in Columbia City parks is soon likely to be prohibited.

The Columbia City City Council is expected to host a second and final reading of an ordinance Thursday night, March 15, that prohibits the use of tobacco and marijuana products in city parks.

By state law, smoking marijuana in any public space is already outlawed.

The council was also expected to adopt the ordinance Thursday evening, an action expected to occur after the Spotlight's press time.

The ordinance was first presented to the Columbia City Parks Committee in January by Clair Catt, a prevention coordinator for the Public Health Foundation of Columbia County. Board Chair Sally Ann Marson said the committee thought the proposal made sense, and the committee recommended sending it to the City Council for final approval.

Marson said she often encounters people at parks who complain about discarded cigarette butts or secondhand smoke.

"I don't think they've actually come to the city to complain, but I work in the parks and people will come in and say how disgusting it is that people will just throw [cigarette butts], or you can see where people have stepped on them," Marson said.

City Administrator Leahnette Rivers said public works staff have complained about having to clean up cigarette butts and trash related to smoking, although the complaints have been infrequent.

Marson added that parks in the community often attract young children and others who want to enjoy the outdoors and shouldn't be exposed to secondhand smoke. When summers are hot and dry, smoking can also pose a fire hazard, she added.

Marson said she never thought to bring the issue up with the parks committee or City Council previously, but said the health foundation proposal made sense.

"I'm not going to say it was a big issue," Rivers said. "The parks committee just listened and felt it was a good mission to support and moved forward with recommending it to the City Council."

Councilors may also consider establishing other no-smoking zones or designated smoking areas on city property, which would also help with cleanup efforts, Rivers said.

St. Helens passed a similar ordinance in 2015 that banned smoking in its parks after hearing a proposal from the health foundation about creating smoke-free communities. At the time the City Council expressed an interest in making the community healthier.

Scapppose city parks are also smoke-free, as is Rainier Riverfront Park.

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