BOZEMAN — You’d be hard-pressed to find kids out and about on the playground and at the park in the dead of winter, but right now the Bozeman City Commission is discussing the possibility of making city parks tobacco free in order to combat youth tobacco usage.
Officials with the Gallatin City-County Health Department told commissioners last week that the research is clear. Banning tobacco products in parks reduces smoking occurrences and tobacco litter in city parks.
“We went and visited five popular Bozeman parks and we did some observational studies where we sat and studied how many people were using tobacco and we also collected tobacco litter,” said Heather Demorest, health promotion specialist at the Gallatin City-County Health Department.
Health officials then put up smoke-free signs in two of the popular parks, Kirk Park and Glen Lake Rotary Park, and found smoking and tobacco litter decreased in both.
Bozeman’s mayor says passing a city-wide resolution would serve as a self-policing way to reduce a problem.
“It’s really peer pressure and asking people to be mindful of others,” said Mayor Chris Mehl.
Commissioner Cunningham agreed and said on the phone Monday afternoon, “It’s a no-brainer.”
But there would be no citation or punishment for a violation. Both Commissioner Wallner and Commissioner Pomeroy said they would like to see city policy with more teeth.
“When you’re caught smoking in the park you should pay the fine,” said Commissioner Pomeroy
Deputy Mayor Cyndy Andrus says she still has some questions about the resolution but thinks a total ban may be a bit of an overstep and not the most effective way to address youth tobacco usage.
Mayor Mehl says there may be a tobacco free parks resolution at a commission meeting in the near future. And depending on how the commissioners vote, residents could see action as early as this spring.