“It started out that people were smoking out there in the stands,” said Ronnie Perdue, a member of the Spalding County Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission.
He said earlier, smoking was restricted to special sections of the stands. Two to three years ago, “butt cans” were provided for smokers to deposit their cigarette butts.
“We had no place at all to put the cigarette butts,” he said.
However, Perdue estimates that although 80 percent of the people obey the rules, 20 percent do not and throw their cigarette butts onto the ground. He said picking up the cigarette butts is a time-consuming task, generating 40 hours of additional work per week for the inmate crews used to clean up the parks. He said many times, the cigarette butts are dumped within 2 feet of a “butt can.”
Perdue said he believes the new policy would, if implemented, cut down on littering in the parks. He said that although other tobacco products, such as chewing tobacco, are not causing problems, it would be best to be consistent and ban all of them instead of picking and choosing.
Although the new policy was included in the revision of the Parks & Recreation policies submitted to the Spalding County Board of Commissioners earlier, some of the commissioners objected to the tobacco policy and sent the policy back to the advisory board for further review.
Spalding County Board of Commissioners member Dave Phillips was among the commissioners who opposed the ban as it was written.
“I opposed it in the personal vehicles,” he said. “That’s an extension of your home.”
He said he agreed with keeping tobacco use out of the stands and away from the fence, but applying the ban to cars would be ridiculous.
“This isn’t Big Brother, it’s their car,” he said. “If you can have a pistol there, what in the world difference does it make if you have a cigarette?”
He said there are more important issues to deal with.
Outgoing Spalding County Board of Commissioners member Johnie McDaniel said he spoke in support of the ban at the commission meeting to support the Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission. He said the ban would be an opportunity to teach children that tobacco use is not something people want to be around.
That being said, if the commissioners ultimately choose not to ban tobacco products entirely from Parks & Recreation facilities, he would not have a problem with that.
Perdue said the advisory board will go over the policy again next year.
“We won’t have our next regular meeting until January,” Perdue said.