EO file photo
Faced with public health concerns, Pendleton parks are giving up smoking and going cold turkey for at least the next two years.
The council amended an ordinance banning tobacco at Rudy Rada Skatepark and expanded it to all 22 properties in the Pendleton parks system.
The ordinance doesn’t just ban cigarettes, but any “tobacco products” or “lighted smoking instrument or activated inhalant delivery system.” That means cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco, snuff, e-cigarettes or vape pens are also forbidden.
Unlike a previous administrative rule that banned smoking near playgrounds, the ordinance carries penalties for those who violate it including citations and fines.
Pendleton Parks and Recreation Director Donnie Cook said the ordinance was meant to protect children from tobacco and reduce littering from cigarette butts.
From a health standpoint, Mariah Hinds, the tobacco prevention coordinator for Umatilla County Public Health, said these kinds of policies could help prevent tobacco addiction in minors and provide a safe place for former smokers struggling to kick their habit.
Umatilla County Public Health Director Jim Setzer said people thought that a ban on smoking in restaurants would never hold, but public attitude has changed on the issue.
Cook said he met with Police Chief Stuart Roberts about his previous concerns about enforcing the ordinance, which prompted tobacco ban supporters to propose a six-month education program so the ban could become more self-enforcing.
Roberts said he wanted the public to have realistic expectations about the ban, especially since some members of the public already get upset when an ordinance violation doesn’t end in a citation or arrest.
George Cress, a former director of light and power for the city of Forest Grove who now lives in Pendleton, testified that he was a city employee when Forest Grove banned tobacco on all municipal property.
Although there were enforcement concerns, Cress said an educational campaign does a lot of the leg work. Additionally, health insurance rates went down as city workers stopped using tobacco on the job.
Despite receiving no public testimony in opposition to the ordinance, some councilors were still skeptical.
Councilor Neil Brown worried that banning tobacco would lead to a slippery slope, where something like cheeseburgers, which are also unhealthy and can lead to litter, would also become the target of a ban.
Councilor Paul Chalmers made a motion to approve the ban with an initial six-month grace period on enforcement during the educational campaign and a two-year sunset provision.
Chalmers’ motion was passed 6-2, with Brown and Councilor Becky Marks voting against it.
Contact Antonio Sierra at email@example.com or 541-966-0836.