Starting March 1, when you go to concerts or your kids’ play dates in Kannapolis’ parks, you’ll have to leave your smokes, dip and chew at home. At Monday’s meeting, Kannapolis City Council members unanimously voted to ban tobacco use of any kind in city parks in a little less than two months.
But council members acknowledged the ban might be unpopular with many, and difficult to enforce.
Parks and Recreation Director Gary Mills said the ban has been a long time coming.
Mills, who spoke of losing two grandparents to smoking-related illnesses, said there was no need to remind council members of the dangers of tobacco use, especially cigarette smoking.
“There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke,” Mills said.
And Mills said attempts to create designated smoking areas at Village Park, home of the city’s summer events series, had failed.
Many disregarded the designated areas, resulting in complaints.
And litter is a constant issue, Mills added.
“In one day at the playground at Village Park, we pick up over 30 cigarette butts,” Mills said.
The total ban on tobacco, Mills said, will help bring Kannapolis in line with other municipalities, including Cabarrus County’s parks system and parks in nearby cities like Harrisburg.
“This is the time that we need to join in with the rest of our county,” he said.
Councilman Tom Kincaid asked Mills how a smoking ban could be enforced at events which draw thousands of spectators.
Mills said that was the reason for allowing two months before the ban goes into effect.
He said new signs and other efforts will educate visitors about the tobacco ban well in advance of the summer’s events.
Mills also said Parks and Recreation staff are being trained on how to courteously remind patrons of the new policy.
Though Kincaid said he hated to vote for more restrictions on citizens, he was in favor of the ban and recognized it’s in line with public health laws statewide.
“There’ll be some kicking and screaming for sure,” Kincaid said. “We’re going to hear about it.”
Mayor Pro Tem Gene McCombs asked how the new policy would affect city employees who smoke. At other facilities, employees are allowed to smoke outdoors as long as they’re 50 feet from buildings.
But Parks and Recreation employees won’t have that option.
City Manager Mike Legg said the city is using a more proactive approach to encourage employees to quit smoking.
At some point, Legg said, there may be monetary consequences for smokers covered on the city’s health plan.
Mills acknowledged that there are some smokers among his employees at Parks and Recreation.
“They have been made fully aware of the potential ordinance … and they recognize the value of it, as far as our patrons go,” Mills said.
Councilman Roger Haas said the ban “makes us nice and politically correct,” and said he was only supporting it because it would help prevent littering.
But Haas predicted the new ordinance will be “an enforcement nightmare.”
In related news, a revised set of rules governing burials at the Kannapolis cemetery, adjacent to Village Park downtown, passed unanimously after a brief discussion.
The revised policies no longer prohibit Sunday burials at the historic cemetery, which has been officially closed since the 1940s but still sees several burials a month as plots sold long ago are used.