Thaden Brient, an Athens parent, spent about a month of his summer this year picking up cigarette butts from the grounds of Southside Park on Dairy Lane.
Brient was in part cleaning up the park for his 9-year-old daughter, who uses the city’s playgrounds regularly, but he was also collecting data. He presented that data to Athens City Council on Monday, when he asked council to consider banning smoking – and possibly use of all tobacco products – in all of the city’s public parks.
City Council members seemed to very much like the idea. Each council member spoke positively about Brient’s endeavor and about the possibility of banning smoking in Athens parks.
“Possibly then… I don’t know what kind of ordinance would move forward to make this a more comprehensive measure but I think that’s what we’re needing to do,” council member Chris Knisely said.
If City Council ends up acting on Brient’s proposal through a possible city ordinance (most likely far off in the future), Athens could become the fourth city in the state of Ohio to mandate smoke-free parks. Brient said that about 1,000 municipalities across the country have smoke-free park laws. Currently, the Athens Arts, Parks and Recreation Department has a rule that bans smoking in city parks, but there is no city ordinance to back the rule up.
Rich Campitelli, director of the department, said Tuesday that he would support an ordinance banning smoking in the city’s parks.
“That (ordinance) would be fine. I think it could help but it should have some teeth to some type of enforcement,” he said. “Enforcement doesn’t fall into my world.”
Brient collected all cigarette butts he could find around picnic shelters and benches in July and August at Southside Park. He found that an average of about 10 to 16 cigarettes were used and tossed carelessly on the ground per day after an initial cleanup of about 155 cigarette butts in the park on July 21. He found 30 butts at Highland Park after a single clean-up in July, and about 59 after a similar clean-up of the park at the Athens Community Center. There were cigarette butts not only from L&M Blue Label but also other brands.