Lansdale smoking ban at least a month away
A potential smoking ban in Lansdale’s parks, pools and playgrounds is at least another month away.
Borough staff members are working on a list of potential “play areas” where a ban could be implemented as soon as next month, as a discussion about whether to ban or restrict smoking on all other borough properties continues, according to Borough Manager Timi Kirchner.
“These are two very different ordinances that would have to be done, related to different areas of the borough,” she said.
“Let your staff look into this, something as monumental as this — and it is monumental — because we are talking about a significant restriction on all of the lands that are owned by the borough,” Kirchner said.
A ban in borough parks was initially discussed, but voted down last month for further discussion, and Kirchner told several council committees Wednesday night that staff members are now looking into the feasibility of recommending to council smoking bans in two phases.
7KH firVW SKDVH wRuOG be similar to the intent of the initiative originally discussed last month and would eliminate smoking and other tobacco use outside of designated areas at borough playgrounds, pools and possibly parks — although staff members are now working to definH “SODy DrHDV” WR cODrLIy where that ban would be in place.
“We felt that that was something that was very reasonable, and also doable. Part of that, to me, is that it’s a no-brainer: there are young children at play” in those designated play areas, she said.
Kirchner, borough Parks and oecreation Director Carl Saldutti and council are working to identify those play areas and will presHnW WKRVH WKHy’YH LGHnWLfiHG when the parks committee meets in October, but will tackle that separately from a wider ban on all borough properties.
That second step was brought up at council’s August meeting by Councilman Paul Clemente — who was absent from Wednesday night’s meetings — when he suggested that since the borough’s solicitor was preparing a park ban, why not look at writing a wider ban at the same time?
Kirchner told council Wednesday night that after staff discussion and deliberation, “there are no economies of scale” by trying to write both bans at once, but staff members have found new resources and new costs that could help with both steps.
The borough has been in contact with the state Department of Health on how its “Young Lungs at Play” program could help inform borough residents about zones and bans and provide educational material and signage that encourage smokers to watch out for younger residents.
“Signs that say ‘Please be courteous: Think before you smoke,’ that is a message to smokers that, as they enter into an area, they need to look around and see that other people are there that are not smoking,” Kirchner said.
The intent is “not treating smokers like criminals, so to speak, but is saying to them ‘Don’t share your secondhand smoke with other people,’” and lets non-smokers point out the borough’s message without relying on police to enforce it, Kirchner said.
During the parks committee’s talks, Saldutti said he’s been researching smoking bans and restrictions in nearby municipalities, as well as with the state health department and the Clean Air Council of Philadelphia; the latter group’s suggestion was to start with smaller restrictions while discussing and working out the larger ones.
“They did say that if you did playgrounds, you’re moving in the right direction. It is a start, and if you want to expand it, certainly then you could expand it,” Saldutti said.
While the outside agency has offered to help with signage and education, there are downsides to a wider ban, Kirchner said.
Beyond the legal costs of preparing those new rules, the borough would have to identify and designate certain smoking zones, put equipment and signage there and determine how to monitor and enforce the ban.
“That costs money, both in terms of creating [zones], putting the special ash trays there that you see in those areas and then maintaining them, because they are often vandalized, and cleaning up all around that area,” she said.
“How far do we push our own people as far as enforcement is concerned? And how much time is that taking them away from regular duties that we would like them to be doing? We’ve only begun to scratch below the surface,” Kirchner said.
Council’s parks and recreation and administration DnG finDncH cRPPLWWHHV bRWK discussed the potential ban Wednesday night, after each heard a similar report from the manager.
In the parks committee, Councilman oich Didregorio pointed out that private sports clubs do police smoking by their members DW bDOO fiHOGV Rn FLIWK SWrHHW, and Kirchner said that will be a consideration when staff develops its list of play areas.
“We have properties that people congregate in all the time, and this is the law of unintended consequences: we have to think about what we’d be doing to the neighborhood in and around those parks,” she said.
“If people cannot smoke in our parks, where are they going to go smoke? Over across the street, and if that’s a residential neighborhood, suddenly you have cigarette butts on people’s private property,” Kirchner said.
Councilman Steve Malagari pointed out that footbDOO DnG bDVHbDOO fiHOGV, WHnnis and basketball courts and even oailroad Plaza could WHcKnLcDOOy bH GHfinHG DV “bDOO fiHOGV” DnG bH cRYHrHG under the initial ban, and Kirchner said that’s why staff will develop its list of play areas with the “Young Lungs at Play” theme in mind.
No rough draft of a play area list has been developed by staff yet, according to Kirchner, but one will be presented to the parks committee when it meets in October, and the committee could vote then to recommend that council approve the play area ban at its second meeting in October.
The borough’s oailroad Plaza adjacent to the Lansdale Train Station is considered a borough property and part of the parks system, but would likely avoid designation as a play area for the first phase of the ban, according to Kirchner.
She added that the borough’s Parking Authority has not begun discussion on any similar ban on properties it owns such as borough parking lots, but said the policy manual for borough employees does prohibit smoking in boroughowned vehicles — “and they would be walking to those vehicles on borough property” that could be affected by the wider ban, Kirchner said.
Saldutti added that he could make public announcements before events in borough parks that residents be courteous of others, and Kirchner said staff have LGHnWLfiHG RWKHr cRnVLGHrations with certain properties — for example, Borough Hall employees currently could smoke near that building’s front entrance, but the building’s HsAC system could ingest that smoke into the building’s air system and impact other employees inside.
During the administration DnG finDncH cRPPLWWHH GLVcussion, Councilman Dan Dunigan pointed out that the knee-jerk reaction to ban smoking on all properties might not be the correct approach legally either, since “it is still currently legal to smoke — although some may disapprove, it is still legal to buy and smoke cigarettes.”
Council President Matt West added that those signs can be used to help build community awareness as residents work together to make each other aware of restrictions or zones, instead of encouraging bad behavior by prohibiting it outright.
“It’s the psychological approach where if you say, ‘Don’t do something,’ people do it. Maybe it’s my skill set from having three young boys, but if you don’t want people to do it, put the responsibility on the end user” to avoid the “Young Lungs at Play” areas, West said.
Both committees said they will continue the discussion on the play area designations and the wider ban when the committees next meet Oct. 3.
Members of the public can also offer public comment at council’s business meeting, which is scheduled for T p.m. Sept. 19, and if the committee recommends a play area ban in October, it could come before council for approval Oct. 1T.