NORTH KINGSTOWN – The North Kingstown Town Council on Monday unanimously approved an amendment to a town ordinance that will prohibit the use of tobacco products in town-owned recreational areas.
After the town received a grant from the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) to add tobacco-free signage to recreational areas owned by North Kingstown, the council moved to adopt the amendment to the Parks and Recreational Areas Ordinance, banning the use of tobacco and nicotine products.
According to the amendment, any products containing tobacco or nicotine–including electronic cigarettes and vaporizers–will be banned from areas like the beach, parks, ball fields, basketball courts and playgrounds that are owned and operated by the town.
The use of tobacco or nicotine products in town-owned recreational facilities could result in a $100 fine and immediate ejection from the facility.
The amendment to the ordinance states that smoking and other uses of tobacco products are “hereby prohibited at any athletic or recreational facility owned or leased by the town and prohibited at the town beach at all times.”
“Any person found violating this section shall be subject to immediate ejection from the athletic or recreational facility and/or be subject to a fine of up to $100,” the ordinance reads.
Chelsey Dumas-Gibbs, the town’s recreation director, applied for and received the RIDOH grant, called the Tobacco Free Mini Grant. The grant–$3,000 in total–is to be used for sustainable signage to assist with enforcement and public education.
“In the grant application, I asked for funding for tobacco-free signage for our parks,” Dumas-Gibbs wrote in a memo to the council. “I also made the promise to educate the summer camp students about the dangers of tobacco use and the new ordinance that is attached that will be enforced within our parks.”
The amendment prohibiting tobacco use in recreational areas was the direct result of receiving the RIDOH grant.
The mini-grants, according to RIDOH, are a way to increase partnerships and remove “cancer-causing tobacco chemicals” from public spaces through the “implementation and enforcement” of 100 percent tobacco-free parks.
“Funds for this project may support sustainable outdoor and indoor signage to assist with enforcement and public education, window clings, banners, and educational materials,” a RIDOH memo states.
The memo goes on to say that parks and recreational areas “are at the heart of a healthy community,” adding that tobacco-free parks “protect the public from drifting secondhand smoke exposure and the environment from tobacco product litter.”
RIDOH also pointed out that cigarette butts are the most commonly discarded waste worldwide.
“Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for acute respiratory problems, ear infections, and asthma attacks,” RIDOH continued in its memo. “Adults exposed to secondhand smoke experience immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and can also develop coronary heart disease and lung cancer.”
“There is no room for secondhand smoke or toxic cigarette butt litter in Rhode Island parks,” the department stated.
The town council unanimously approved the amendment prohibiting tobacco use in town-owned recreational areas, with almost no discussion.