PROVO — It's dangerous to everyone who uses it or is in close proximity to it, so the Utah County Health Department wants smoking and other tobacco use to be banned from public parks.

Jen Tischler, a tobacco prevention and control health educator for the Utah County Health Department, spoke to members of the Council of Governments about banning tobacco products in parks. Members of Outrage, an anti-tobacco youth group, along with Tischler discussed the dangers of secondhand smoke and provided the findings of a survey to the council.

The county collected 5,112 surveys asking county residents what types of policies they would prefer in county parks regarding tobacco use. Policy options included a ban on all tobacco products, a ban on smoking, a ban on chewing tobacco, as well as creating designated areas for tobacco use, Tischler said. Of those surveyed, 96 percent said they wanted some change, and 58 percent wanted a ban on all tobacco use in parks throughout the county, she said.

A recent study from Stanford University showed that toxins from smoking can reach levels as high outside as they can inside, Tischler said.

Utah County has the lowest tobacco use in the state, but is "behind the ball in policies," she said. Both Tooele and Davis counties have made all public places smoke-free. Tischler said the health department would prefer the county to implement an ordinance that affects all public parks, which would be easier than trying to implement it city by city.

Tischler and Outrage made the same presentation to the Utah County Board of Health in May. Members of the board were in favor of banning tobacco use in public parks as a comprehensive county health regulation.

"Two counties have adopted it as a public health department regulation for the county," said Dr. Joseph Miner, executive director of the Utah County Health Department. "We have authority to do that. Salt Lake County has done it city by city. I think it's not a bad idea to do it as a health department."

Rulon Barlow, chairman of the Board of Health, said passing a regulation as a health department would make it "more streamlined and effective."

The board decided to hold off any regulation and asked Tischler and her team to present their findings to the Council of Government so the cities wouldn't feel the county was imposing it on them.

Mike McGee, Cedar Hills mayor and vice-chairman of the group, asked Tischler to have the health department draw up the policy and allow the cities to look at it before they make a decision.


E-mail: csmith@desnews.com