Shawnee City Commissioners passed an ordinance Monday night that will ban tobacco use, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes, both indoor and outdoor on all city run property, including parks and recreation areas.
The ordinance is one step closer to allowing Shawnee to become certified as a healthy community, making the city eligible for grants from the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust.
“The money is nice because it’s kind of whatever we choose to do with it we can as long as it’s going to promote those health and wellness initiatives,” said Amy Dunn with Communities of Excellence.
She said this ordinance would bring the city properties up to the same levels of other communities who have this same ordinance.
“This particular health issue kills about 6,000 people every single year in Oklahoma,” she said.
Dunn said by certifying the entities under the initiative, the overall health of the community will improve.
Commissioners were split over the decision, resulting in the ordinance passing by only one vote.
Commissioners Pam Stephens, Linda Agee and James Harrod voted against the ordinance while Commissioners Keith Hall, John Winterringer, Steve Smith and Mayor Wes Mainord all voted for the ordinance. Although it passed, the ordinance will take effect in 30 days rather than immediately because commissioners were one vote short of passing an emergency clause.
“It would be a big help to the pool,” said Hall. “We certainly won’t get it [grant] if we don’t put the things in place to at least apply for it.”
Agee said it shouldn’t be about the money and the commissioners should focus on whether or not the ordinance was a good fit for Shawnee.
Harrod, Stephens and Agee all agreed they were concerned about the enforcement procedures at the parks and lake, but Hall said that was not a good reason to not vote for the ordinance.
“Other places are doing it and there may be people that get away with breaking the rule but that’s not a reason to not implement the ordinance,” he said.
Dunn addressed the concerns with an example of another city that enforces the ordinance and the way that city’s police force has a passive enforcement method.
“It would be like anything else; the police would enforce it if necessary,” Dunn said. “It’s not like anything different than your typical speeding sign or throwing trash out the window. We have laws and people choose to follow those laws or people choose to not follow those laws.”
Page 2 of 2 - Agee argued the number two objective on the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust is the reduction of obesity.
“So are we going to come up with an ordinance that’s going to ban the consumption of sodas and high-fat foods in public places?” she asked. “In my opinion, this is not a good policy for the City of Shawnee because we’re no longer talking about secondhand smoke. We’re talking about what people can do to themselves.”
Agee also expressed her concern for the Expo center during the yearly rodeo. She said a lot of people at the rodeo, both attendees and workers, use smokeless tobacco.
“Now we’re going to penalize these people and I think it would be a deterrent to some people to attend,” she said.
Dunn said the health rankings in the state of Oklahoma are very low and it is important to educate people on the harms of tobacco use.
“Our job is to communicate and educate the detriment that something could be to a community,” she said.
Agee agreed that education is important but to leave the decision to use tobacco to each individual person.
“I think public education and encouragement is the way we need to go and not through penalty ordinances that are going to be difficult to enforce,” Agee said. “It’s the trendy thing to do right now but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s fit for us.”
Dunn said the city is hoping to receive $110,000 in grant money if the city applies at the excellence level. In order to apply at that level, Dunn said a few more steps have to be taken.
“The other issues…is something we don’t do now, we just need a policy on, which is advertisement of alcohol or tobacco at any city-sponsored event,” said James Bryce, Shawnee Director of Operations. “The other one is the regulation of storefront advertisement. It’s the only other two things we need to qualify to write the application for the grant in the amount of $110,000.”