BLACKFOOT — After hearing testimonies from members of Blackfoot's Independence High School student health council and Tracy Lambson from Southeastern Idaho Public Health - followed by a public hearing on a quest for 'smoke-free' parks in Blackfoot at Tuesday's city council meeting, the city council moved to table the issue until a committee is formed to study what areas of Jensen Grove could potentially be signed 'smoke-free.'
Lambson and the students from the health council gave compelling statements to the council and a full house of citizens about the health risks of second hand smoke (particularly to children) and the littering of cigarette butts in public parks.
High school senior Tony Davis, who has been active since the beginning in the student health council's movement to have 'smoke-free parks in the city told the council that in "just 30 minutes he was able to pick up an a whole box of cigarette butts from Jensen Grove."
All of the councilmen were in agreement with the students about the dangers of cigarette smoke; however, for the council, making the parks in Blackfoot 'smoke-free' boiled down to a personal rights issue and the fact that that the city already has an ordinance on the books stating that smoking in public parks be allowed "in designated areas only;" however, enforcement and signage has been weak.
Chris Jensen, who is a non-smoker and father of two children with asthma, defended smoking as a personal freedom saying, "Each individual has a right to choose what they want to do with their life and the parks are here for everyone to enjoy. Telling smokers they can't come into our parks is a violation of personal rights."
Jensen stressed that the city needs to abide by what they already have in place and that they [the city] has failed to put up proper signage on the ordinance.
"We need to do a better job defining 'where smoking is (or isn't) allowed,' "Jensen said.
Councilman Rich Woodfin concurred adding, "This is a personal rights issue. Enforcing this would be a nightmare. We need to make this a designated, voluntary compliance."
Blackfoot's Chief of Police Kurt Asmus told the council that he would rather see 'smoke-free' parks start with voluntary compliance because of the labor involved in enforcing a strict 'no smoking' ordinance.
Mayor Mike Virtue asked for the assistance of [Tracy] Lambson to form a committee to study Jensen Grove (the city's main park) in the next few months to establish which areas would be best to be designated as 'smoke-free.' Virtue said he would would like the issue to be resolved by the end of the year.
"Between the city and the help of Southeast Health, we should have no problem getting the proper signage around the parks once some perimeters have been established." Virtue said.
Tony [Davis] speaking on behalf of the student health council, said he is pleased with the council's decision and was happy to hear that they [the city] already had something in place regarding designated smoking areas and hopes that proper signage in the future will help keep secondhand smoke away from children.