Proposed Add-On to Ordinance Bans Tobacco Products in Park Areas

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - Odessa already has a smoking ban at restaurants. Now they're looking to snuff out the habit at other places. That includes parks and swimming pools, and it's not just cigarettes they're trying to put out.

Smoking is already banned in some public places around the city like restaurants and schools, but now lighting up or even using tobacco products like dip in parks could be added to a city ordinance.

City officials said Odessans have been wanting this for a while.

"We've got a situation that is affecting the health, welfare and well being of our citizens," Odessa Parks and Recreation Director, Steve Patton, said.

In Odessa, that situation is tobacco use at city parks and Patton wants to do something about it, especially for children.

"We're following suit with what a lot of other cities around the nation are doing," he said.

After receiving multiple complaints over the years about this issue, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board is proposing a ban of any tobacco product within 50 ft. of a spectator area.

"Bleacher areas, swimming pools, playgrounds, primarily where there's a congregation of people themselves," Patton said.

The list of areas also includes athletic fields, tennis, basketball and volleyball courts and even restrooms at parks.

Patton said they want to expand the existing ordinance to products like dip and chew because they pose a health and safety hazard, including around pools.

"They'll spit on the walls in the bathrooms, they'll spit in the water," he said. "If we need to do mouth to mouth resuscitation and if that person has chew or dip in their mouth, it's just going to make those efforts that much more difficult."

Patton said a few public hearings were held and smokers understood the push for this ordinance.

"As long as I have a place to smoke away from those areas, they felt that was a good compromise," he said.

But some don't agree.

"I think it's ridiculous," Carson Collins said. "We pay for the parks as citizens so there is no reason the city should be cracking down on us when we fund the parks."

Others, including some smokers, are all for it.

"I know that the cigarette butts, my son has picked up the butts before and has stuck them in his mouth," Yesenia Gonzalez said.

"I think it's a good idea, kids really shouldn't be around it," Mackensie McCabe said. "It's a really bad habit even though I do it."

Patton said bottom line is making sure everyone is safe when they're out for a day at the park.

"It could be a problem, a problem that we don't want to have to deal with," Patton said.

This proposed ordinance is still in the very early stages and could change before and if it's approved by the City Council.