Environment Social Justice Community member presents idea to make Athens Public Parks Smoke Free By Alexandra Newman Posted on October 14, 2014 5 min read 0 0 560 Photo courtesy of Flickr user Jayaprakash R. Whenever Athens resident Thaden Brient takes his 9-year-old daughter to the park, he fears for her safety and health. The number of smokers inhabiting the same park his daughter plays in is alarming, and he says he wants it to stop. The City of Athens does not have a rule about smoking cigarettes in its public parks. So Brient decided to spend 18 months doing research on smoking and how he could propose a smoke-free and/or tobacco-free ordinance for Athens Parks. “It’s a very contemporary issue now, to start looking at outdoor areas due to second hand smoking and just public behavior, in general,” Brient said. Over 1,000 municipalities in the United States have city ordinances banning tobacco or cigarette use in public parks; Ohio has three municipalities. “I think this is timely. I think it is time we become city number four,” At-Large Rep. Steve Patterson said. Brient decided to do his own study and present it to the City Council in hopes of getting an ordinance passed in the near future to make Athens parks tobacco-free. To start his study, Brient cleared as many cigarette butts he could from three major parks in Athens to start with a clean slate. During his initial clean-up of Southside Park he collected 155 cigarette butts. He worked on this clean-up of cigarette butts for 32 days, returning every couple of days to clean up. After compiling the data from all three parks, he discovered an average of one cigarette butt was dropped on the ground every hour. Brient said the Athens Arts, Parks & Recreation Department recently released a master plan that did not include any wordage about tobacco. The department has put up several “No smoking cigarettes” signs on some playground equipment, but there are no uniform rules or enforcement. If an ordinance were passed, signage, education and cooperation with the health department would necessary. Several Council Members agreed this could add to a more healthy community. They mentioned it could be related to Living Healthy Appalachia. “Our city’s parks and recreation department should be about making healthy choices whether it’s in the food choices that we make, the fitness choices that we make or the substances we choose to put in our body and the modeling that takes place in these situations,” At-Large Rep. Jennifer Cochran said. In the coming weeks, the council will discuss the idea of a smoke-free or tobacco-free ordinance. Brient even used an example of a tobacco-ban ordinance to include in his presentation. “We can make informed decisions when we learn new information, and we can make the choice to be healthier, and that’s really important we not shy away from action because it’s scary to make change and change is difficult,” Cochran said.