Smokers may soon be prohibited from lighting up in American Canyon parks. City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve an ordinance prohibiting tobacco use in all public parks.
The ban would apply to smokeless (chewing) tobacco and e-cigarettes as well. In addition to public parks, smoking at the city’s aquatic center and senior center facilities would also be prohibited.
Smoking is already prohibited on American Canyon hiking trails and in other open spaces due to fire danger.
During public comment at a City Council meeting this week, Jim Tennant of Napa County Tobacco Advisory Board spoke in favor of the law, and said his group was campaigning to get a ban in place throughout the county. Tennant said the cities of Napa and St. Helena, as well the county, have passed the ban, and Yountville was currently considering a similar ordinance.
Tennant, who said he used to work in the tobacco industry, said American Canyon is the first jurisdiction to address e-cigarettes. He said he believes e-cigarettes are a way to introduce people to smoking tobacco, just as light cigarettes were a generation ago.
The smoke from burning tobacco is not the only health hazard associated with cigarettes, Tennant said. He said cigarette butts are the largest single litter source in many areas and are toxic to the environment.
“Cigarette butts are designed to catch all the toxins before they get into your lungs,” Tennant said. “They’re eaten by kids, they’re eaten by wildlife. They’re washed down the drains and into our rivers.”
Tennant said there is cigarette litter in American Canyon parks and in other areas, including a basketball court and an area across from American Canyon High School where students apparently go to smoke.
Vice Mayor Belia Ramos Bennett asked if the city of Napa, which passed its smoking in the parks ban in 2009, saw a reduction in cigarette butt litter.
Another member from the advisory board said there had been a significant reduction in cigarette butt litter after six months, although he was unable to cite figures.
If council members pass the ordinance on second reading, new signs will be needed in the parks, although no special enforcement or public education measures are planned, Wright said.
Supervisor Keith Caldwell spoke in favor of the ban “as a supervisor and as a grandparent.” Caldwell said the ban would prevent children’s exposure to second-hand smoke. He described the ordinance as “reasonable.”
Councilmember Mark Joseph said while he “could see the merits” of the ban, he would like to hear from smokers as well.
Mayor Leon Garcia was pleased e-cigarettes were included in the ban.
As proposed by Creighton Wright, the city’s Parks and Recreation director, the ordinance could allow for smoking in designated areas for events lasting more than four hours, such as music festivals.
Councilmembers Joan Bennett and Kenneth Leary didn’t favor an exception for longer events.
“We should have a smoking area or not have a smoking area,” Bennett said. Leary said smoke doesn’t stay within boundaries, so designating smoking areas is futile.
Wright said any exceptions would be up to the council.