Bell Gardens Parks to Go ‘Smokefree’

August 31, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Bell Gardens is the latest in a growing list of cities moving to make parks and recreation areas off-limits to smoking.

Under a new policy tentatively approved Monday by the city council, smoking of traditional tobacco products, e-cigarettes and marijuana would be prohibited. The council voted unanimously to adopt the policy, however, before it can become official, the law requires a second reading and vote, which is scheduled to take place at the city council’s meeting on Sept. 11.

“Secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard,” said Bell Gardens Mayor Jose Mendoza. “The intent of enacting an ordinance which totally bans smoking in our parks, public facilities and city events is to protect the non-smokers in our community, especially children from serious side effects like lung cancer, respiratory infections, and asthma.”

BG-Play Smoke Free Feature

According to Mendoza, secondhand smoke is the 3rd leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

The city currently only enforces a state health and safety code that prohibits smoking “in and within 25 feet of any playground or recreational area specifically designed to be used by children,” and “in and within 25 feet of any public building,” according to a Bell Gardens staff report.

Several residents and representatives of the American Lung Association spoke in support of the ordinance during public testimony Monday. In a statement Tuesday, the Lung Association applauded the council for its action.

“We commend the City of Bell Gardens for advancing a smokefree parks policy that will protect community members, especially children, from secondhand smoke exposure in local parks and recreation areas,” said John Yi, the organization’s advocacy director for California. “This effort would not have been possible without the hard work of local high school students who understand how important it is to create smokefree environments for the community.”

Yi was referring to efforts by local high school students to bring the anti-smoking issue to the public and to encourage city officials to take action.

“A smokefree parks policy is important to me and my community because it will make for a safer and more enjoyable experience for myself and for others,” said Kimberly Gonzalez, a senior at Bell Gardens High School.

According to the Lung Association, exposure to any level of secondhand smoke is harmful. In 2006, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) officially declared secondhand smoke a Toxic Air Contaminant and the United States Surgeon General issued a landmark report concluding that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Policies to limit smoking in parks and recreation areas vary from city to city, and in some cases do not exist. Data from the Lung Association shows this to be true among the cities neighboring Bell Gardens. According to the data, neither Bell nor Montebello ban smoking in city parks, while Commerce restricts smoking at its parks to designated areas, as does the city of Los Angeles.

In unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County, including East Los Angeles, smoking is 100% prohibited.

The Lung Association singled out Huntington Park as a “shining star” when it comes to anti-smoking policies, noting that the southeast city has  “comprehensive smokefree policies including 100% smokefree parks” and “an A grade in our 2017 State of Tobacco Control Report.”

Bell Gardens’ move to restrict smoking comes on the heels of a recent poll conducted by the Lung Association to gauge Bell Gardens residents’ views on making parks off-limits to smoking. According to the Lung Association, 89% of those surveyed said they support smokefree park policies and nearly everyone said they “would be more likely to visit a city park if it was smokefree.”

“Recognition that secondhand smoke is extremely toxic has bolstered efforts by local elected officials across the state to take action to protect their residents from exposure,” said the Lung Association, which cited additional efforts to “protect” residents by prohibiting smoking in other public areas, such as entryways around businesses and other areas where people congregate.

When finalized, Bell Gardens’ ordinance will also prohibit smoking in city buildings and facilities, including parking lots and alleys, and at all city-sponsored events.

Violations of the smoking ban could result in a misdemeanor charge, or reduced to an infraction by the city attorney or city prosecutor. A first time infraction carries a $100 fine; second violation $200; and $500 for the third violation in a 12-month period.

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