• Discussion Of Smoking In Parks Delayed
  • More than 100 people turned out for a Salem City Council meeting Monday hoping to offer their opinions about a proposed ban on smoking cigarettes in city parks.

    Although the meeting began at 6:30 p.m., discussion about the topic didn't begin until 10:20 p.m.

    Many people who had come planning to testify eventually left the meeting room, and one woman nodded off in her chair while waiting out a lengthy council debate about the city budget.

    For three hours, council members talked about cutting franchise fees and deliberated about the allocation of hotel/motel tax dollars. About a dozen people remained in the room by the time councilors opened the public hearing about the proposed ban on smoking cigarettes in parks.

    Ronnie Daniels of Salem attended the meeting to speak his mind, but after several hours all he received was more frustration.

    "Putting a ban on smoking cigarettes infringes on everybody's right to make a choice," he said. "Regardless of how you feel on this issue, people shouldn't have to sit through almost four hours to get a chance to address the City Council."

    Speaking in favor of the proposed ban, Melinda Yost of Salem said, "I shouldn't have to fight my way through a cloud of smoke cigarettes to enjoy a fair."

    Councilors had not made a decision as of press deadline.

    During the past five years, the number of communities with some form of smoking cigarettes regulations in parks has grown to 16 with Portland, Corvallis and Independence included. Dallas City Council is in the process a designating a smoking cigarettes section in its largest city park. Smoking is prohibited in 230 parks and outdoor areas throughout Oregon, totaling about 50,000 acres.

    Salem City Councilor Diana Dickey, Ward 5, initiated in November a motion to designate all city parks as smoke-free areas. If enacted, the ordinance would make it unlawful to "smoke cigarettes or carry any burning smoking cigarettes instrument while in any park."

    "I want to be very clear that the intent of such an ordinance is not to restrict an individual's right to smoke, but rather to protect individuals from secondhand smoke cigarettes exposure in areas where people congregate, sometimes in large groups, and where many children are often present," Dickey said previously.