Pima prohibits puffing on tobacco products at public parks

Jon Johnson File Photo: Smoking tobacco and vaping – like this photo shows at the Safford Skate Park – is now prohibited in all of Pima’s parks after a unanimous vote by the Pima Town Council last Tuesday.

By Jon Johnson

jonjohnsonnews@gmail.com

PIMA – The Pima Town Council decided to follow the lead of Thatcher, Safford, and Graham County, by making all of the parks within the town’s borders smoke-free zones. 

The issue was initially brought forth to the council by Safford High School students Denise Crum and Tatum Clifford at the council’s April 2 meeting. Crum and Clifford addressed the council as part of the group Graham County STARS (Students Taking a Road to Success) and presented the council with a jar full of cigarette butts they collected from Pima Park. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Graham County STARS members, from left, Denise Crum and Tatum Clifford, address the Pima Town Council.

The group has successfully lobbied the town of Thatcher and city of Safford to make their parks and shooting range smoke-free, as well as getting Graham County to designate smoke-free zones at the Graham County Fairgrounds. 

Coordinator Toni Palomino, who works at the Graham County Health Department, said the organization would assist the town with signage alerting the public who visit the parks of the new ordinance. 

“We’ll come down here and help you hang the signs,” she said. 

Palomino added that vaping is also an issue and she encouraged to include vaping in the ban as well. Vaping involves heating a liquid to a vapor and then inhaling and exhaling. There is no combustion, however, and therefore, technically, no smoke.

Pima Councilor Sherrill Teeter also advised that there were other chemicals than just nicotine in the exhaled vapor of electronic cigarettes and they also could contain illicit substances. 

“So, if they’re exhaling that vapor you don’t know what is coming out in the vapor either because they’ve been marijuana, they’ve been other chemicals besides just nicotine that they’re putting in those pens.”   

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Graham County STARS members, from left, Denise Crum and Tatum Clifford, show the group’s tobacco cleanup effort to the Pima Town Council.

The issue was initially tabled to allow the town time to write up an ordinance and inform the public and get feedback. The first reading was then held at its May 7 meeting. At its June 4 meeting, the council unanimously voted to pass the ordinance, which bans all exhaled tobacco products, including vaping.

Chewing tobacco will still be allowed because the focus is on second hand smoke (or vapor) and because, as Pima Town Manager Sean Lewis put it, enforcing a chewing tobacco ban is much harder to do than catch people smoking. 

“So, why have a rule you can’t enforce,” Lewis said. “And, I’m sorry, but if you get second-hand chew problems then you guys are already, I’m pretty sure, pretty close already.”

The ordinance is listed in the offense section of the Pima Town Code and can be punishable with a petty offense or up to a misdemeanor.  

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