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Grand Rapids City Commission creates smoke-free parks, recreational areas

Posted at 9:58 PM, Oct 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-27 21:58:52-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids City Commission approved an ordinance amendment Tuesday to create smoke-free parks and recreational areas.

The move changes “Chapter 71” of the city code from the “Clean Indoor Air Ordinance” to the “Clean Air and Public Places Ordinance.”

“I think we’re ready for it,” said David Marquardt, Grand Rapids parks and recreation director. “They want this kind of change, they desire this kind of change.”

The use of all tobacco, electronic smoking devices, and marijuana products would be prohibited in those spaces.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the ordinance received some concern over its “recreation area” wording.

The ordinance defines it as, “any public or private area open to the public for recreational purposes, whether or not any fee for admission is charged, including but not limited to, streets, sidewalks…”

There were worries it could lead to people of color being unnecessarily targeted.

Jon O’Conner, a commissioner representing Grand Rapids’ first ward, was the most vocal commissioner about the issue. He ultimately voted no on the ordinance amendment and was the only commissioner to do so.

Marquardt addressed the concern and explained the definition came from the state and is meant to only apply to the streets and sidewalks in and adjacent to parks.

He said while violators could face a $50 fine, warnings would be prioritized.

“The basis of this though is, first and foremost, education and the use of warnings,” said Marquardt.

The Kent County Health Department and a number of other local organizations started this effort in 2016 when they ran a three-year, tobacco-free pilot program in 28 parks and playgrounds.

Marquardt says a survey found 85 percent of residents approved of a policy like it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention addsresearch shows smoke-free policies improves the health of smokers and non-smokers.

“These amenities are really cherished by many across the city - really well loved, and really well liked - and these are really valued spaces that people care about and want to be healthy when using these important spaces,” said Marquardt.

The ban will go into effect January 1.