Van Meter enforces tobacco-free parks

Allison McNealEditor

The City of Van Meter is joining cities like Adel, Dallas Center, and Perry in implementing a tobacco-free park and trail policy as part of the Iowa Smokefree Air Act.

Although the Smokefree Air Act prohibits smoking in nearly all public places and enclosed areas, some areas like parks and biking trails allow for some smoking.

In an effort to keep park systems clean, promote wellness and provide for healthy environments, the American Lung Association assisted the City of Van Meter in developing a tobacco-free parks and trail policy in May.

Beth Turner, program coordinator with the American Lung Association, said Dallas County is a leader in the tobacco-free parks movement.

“Currently the cities of Adel, Dallas Center, Perry and now Van Meter have implemented a policy for their parks system,” Turner said. “All cities have welcomed the policy and no push backs by members of these respective cities have been made. Residents of these cities no longer have to worry about the possibility of exposure of secondhand smoke, for both themselves and their children.”

City Administrator Jake Anderson said the policy has already been widely accepted by residents.

“To some extent it was a policy we adopted to formalize a practice that we already had in the town,” he said.

Even though the policy is accepted, Anderson said it is too early to know if the policy has been grasped by community members.

“We don’t have the signs posted yet, but I think the tobacco-free air ads lead city governments to support tobacco-free places,” he said. “The health detriments for tobacco use are well documented.”

Turner said the tobacco-free parks policies are to educate community members about the negative effects of tobacco use and should be promoted throughout the community through the city’s website, parks brochures, school calendar or local newspaper.

“Making individuals aware of the policy is the best way to ensure compliance,” she said. “All Dallas County cities have received signage to increase awareness through the Central Iowa Tobacco-free Partnership.”

The City of Adel also has a tobacco-free policy which was adopted in November 2012 and with no complaints to date, according to City Administrator Brett Klein.

“It wasn’t too bad before because people around here are pretty cognoscente of their surroundings,” Klein said. “But having this policy does promote public health especially near ball diamonds and park equipment.”

Perry’s Parks and Recreation Director Greg Nath has also seen a decrease in tobacco use since they passed a policy in May 2012, but said it hasn’t stopped some from using tobacco in parks.

“We put signs up all over the place and try to educate people who smoke,” he said. “There has been a decrease in incidents, but it hasn’t stopped completely.”

The City of Grimes currently has an alcohol and smoke-free policy in their parks, but is pushing for a tobacco policy.

Other cities like Minburn, Waukee and Woodward have not implemented a policy, but said they have not received any complaints.

“It was discussed four or five years ago briefly and at that time we had not received any complaints,” Waukee Parks and Recreation Director Matt Jermier said. “We still have not received any complaints. It’s always been on our radar to monitor, but we haven’t seen any issues come up.”