City parks smoke-free

Kris Shewairy (from left), City of Olean Youth and Recreation coordinator; Jon Chaffee, coordinator of Reality Check CCA; and Mayor Bill Aiello stand with a new sign at Lincoln Park announcing the city’s ban on tobacco use in city parks.

OLEAN — Almost a year after approval, a ban on smoking, vaping and other nicotine-related products in city parks can now be enforced.

This week, Mayor Bill Aiello reported that signs have now been installed in the city’s 13 parks prohibiting the use of tobacco.

“Last year the Common Council passed Resolution #80-19 which banned the use of tobacco, nicotine or vapor devices in city-owned recreational facilities,” Aiello said. “We are pleased that Reality Check CCA partnered with the City to produce the signs that are now being installed throughout the City’s Park system.

“With the COVID-19 restrictions in place, use of the parks has increased significantly for group functions and meetings,” he added. “We ask leaders of these groups to please remind their members of the tobacco restrictions.”

The ban was approved by the Common Council in November 2019.

Former Alderman Kelly Andreano first proposed the measure in August 2019 following complaints from parents at youth sporting events. For the last decade, the playground areas in city parks have had signs declaring no smoking areas, but they did not carry the force of law.

Along with health risks, aldermen also noted that cleaning up waste from tobacco and nicotine use — cigarette butts, packets of chewing tobacco and cartridges from e-cigarettes — has become an expensive part of park maintenance.

Under the ordinance, which takes effect immediately, violators will be punished with a $200 fine, and anyone violating the ordinance may be ejected from events held in city-owned rec facilities. However, the use of tobacco is allowed within vehicles in recreational facility parking lots.

The legislation defines the ban as including “to burn a lighted cigar, cigarette or pipe, and/or to use any other substance which contains tobacco or nicotine and also includes electronic cigarettes, vapor devices and chewing tobacco.” The products are banned from all City of Olean Park System properties and city-owned recreational facilities, including sporting fields, playgrounds, pools, courts, pavilions and walking trails.

Reality Check, a nonprofit that advocates for smoking cessation attended the meeting and encouraged aldermen to vote in favor of the bill. At the time of adoption, local Reality Check officials said they would help fund the signs to make park visitors aware of the ban. An online poll conducted by the Times Herald indicated significant support. City police officials offered their support, and said enforcement will likely be a friendly warning at first, giving smokers a chance to put out their products before tickets are issued.

(Contact City Editor Bob Clark at bclark@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @OTHBob)

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