Citizens can comment on proposal to ban smoking from city property and events

The city of Forest Grove is proposing a sweeping code change that would prohibit tobacco use and smoking on all city property, including parks, parking lots, buildings and even the current smoking areas within 10 feet of a city building’s door.

The code change would make it a Class D violation to chew tobacco or smoke anything from cigarettes and cigars to plant products, liquid vapor and electronic smoking devices, according to Tom Gamble, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“We’re going to take everything so there won’t be any question if police drive by and see someone smoking,” Gamble said.

The ban also applies to city-sponsored events, such as the Forest Grove Farmers Market or the Chalk Art Festival.

Forest Grove residents will have a chance to voice their opinions about the proposal at two upcoming hearings. The city’s Public Safety Advisory Commision will take public comment at its monthly meeting at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 19, in the Forest Grove Fire Station, 1919 Ash St.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Commission will take comment at 7 p.m. the next day, Thursday, March 20, in the community auditorium, 1915 Main St.

Gamble said the federal Centers for Disease Control reports that recent scientific evidence shows secondhand smoke can cause health problems even outdoors.

According to the Public Health Division of Oregon’s Department of Human Services, 7,000 Oregonians die from tobacco use each year, with an additional 800 deaths specifically tied to secondhand smoke.

“Firsthand smoke or secondhand smoke, it’s not healthy for us,” said Gamble, noting that his department’s goal is to improve the health of the city’s residents.

“I look at this as an opportunity to put our actions where our mouths are,” he said.

Another factor behind the change, Gamble said, is that his employees spend at least two hours a week picking up cigarette butts.

“That all by itself is a significant amount of staff time,” he said.

“People say, ‘Well, just put ashtrays out there.’ That doesn’t do any good.” Despite nearby garbage cans, he said, people still drop their cigarettes on the ground and stomp them out with their feet.

In the picnic shelters at Lincoln, Bard, Rogers and Thatcher parks, they probably clean up 70 to 80 butts a day, he said, “especially Lincoln and Bard.”

Gamble said 56 other Oregon cities have adopted such a policy, as well as the state-park system and the Tualatin Parks and Recreation District in Beaverton.

“This is a momentum-building event,” he said.

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