Visitors to city parks may no longer be able to smoke if a proposed city ordinance passes.
The City of Gainesville presented the most recent draft of the ordinance, which would ban smoking from city parks, on Thursday, said Steve Phillips, the director of the Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs department. The city has considered curtailing smoking in parks for a few years.
UF has had a similar anti-tobacco ordinance in place since 2010, said Florida Bridgewater-Alford, the director of UF’s Campus Communications Outreach.
She said the ordinance helps to create a campus environment that is “supportive of the development and maintenance of a healthy body, mind and spirit.”
While the City Commission overwhelmingly supports the ordinance, there is disagreement over the details, Phillips said. An early proposal suggested a $75 fine like the one currently in place for smoking at bus stops, while another suggested a $25 fine or volunteer hours.
“It’s not our intent to start attacking people by saying, ‘You can’t do this, you will be fined, we’re going to call somebody to give you a citation,’” Phillips said. “It’s to encourage people, to educate them, let them know that this is not the appropriate location for that.”
In the past, the city has tried to discourage smoking to prevent park visitors from inhaling the smoke, he said.
Phillips said if the ordinance passes, signs and an educational campaign will be launched to increase public awareness of the new rules.
“Bottom line is it’s a good thing to have occurring in all our parks,” Phillips said. “If you have secondhand smoke around play areas where kids are enjoying themselves, it’s been proven that that’s a health hazard.”
Philip Allen, a 27-year-old UF Spanish literature doctoral student, said he used to smoke cigarettes but has since moved onto e-cigarettes. While he said he feels there should be areas on campus for smoking because tobacco is legal, he doesn’t have a problem with the restrictions.
“Parks are public places,” Allen said. “They’re used with taxpayer dollars to keep and maintain, so it’s really up to the city. If that’s what the people want, then they have the power to do so.”