CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Smokers could be banished from Live on the Levee and other events at Haddad Riverfront Park under a new ordinance City Council members could introduce next month.Members of council's Parks and Recreation Committee debated the need for such an ordinance Tuesday, after getting complaints about smokers at Haddad concerts last year."How it got started was through the success of Live on the Levee," chairman Susie Salisbury said following a noon committee meeting at the King Community Center."Last summer was the first summer we got to enjoy the canopy," she said. "Some people were smoking and people complained to the mayor's office. So the mayor's office asked that [a ban] be considered."
Mayor Danny Jones said he may have asked council to look into a ban, but didn't want to take credit for it. "It might have been me. Yeah, we're going to do it."We had complaints [last summer] and I observed them myself. I took my kids down there every Friday night. People were smoking in the bowl and some were smoking cigars."People outside should be able to smoke. They can go up on the Boulevard, but not in the amphitheater."Committee members have a number of options, Salisbury said. "Is it necessary to have an ordinance or should it be a policy? Is it an out-and-out ban or just [during] special events? Will there be a separate smoking area? Do we expand it to other parks?"Councilman Courtney Persinger said he'd never considered the need for a smoking ban before, because parks are outside."But I've gotten a lot of feedback from constituents, especially about Live on the Levee, since people are holding cigarettes at waist level. In fact one person had a child who got burned from a cigarette."There's an enforcement issue," Persinger said. "We don't want to put something in place that's like trying to hold water in a bucket with holes in it. But at Haddad, I think it makes sense."Mike Stajduhar said smokers have become a despised class. "I think there's a distinction. For events, yes. Otherwise it's an intrusion. I'd like to start with small steps -- events at Haddad."Parks and Recreation Director John Charnock said smoking has been banned for the last few years at city pools under a policy he put in place. "At pools, we ask people not to smoke and usually they comply, particularly after we put the signs up."But compliance sometime depends on who does the enforcement, he said. People tend to obey him more than teenage lifeguards.Salisbury asked if the ban should apply elsewhere, like soccer tournaments at the Southridge fields.
Stajduhar said the city should start small, with an ordinance for Haddad events only, and try policy bans at other outdoor venues.In order to get a ban in place before the first Live on the Levee concert Memorial Day weekend, the committee needs to prepare an ordinance or policy by the end of April, Salisbury said. "I think we need to define the [Haddad] seating bowl and set penalties."Charleston doesn't need a formal ordinance, said Cheryl Jackson, a tobacco prevention coordinator with the Wellness Council of West Virginia."You don't need an undue burden of levying fines," she said. "What we're finding around the state is policies are working out." She handed out copies of smoking ban policies for Marshall County and Clarksburg, which forbid smoking in all city parks."Tobacco obviously kills more than anything else," Jackson said. "Second-hand smoke outdoors? Research shows it doesn't dissipate into the air."The other side of things is the litter issue. Many people think the little end of a cigarette is cotton. That technology has changed. It's plastic and can take five to 10 years to decompose."
The city attorney's office plans to draft two versions of a Haddad events smoking ban -- an ordinance and a policy, Salisbury said. The committee will meet again next Tuesday.Reach Jim Balow at email@example.com