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Park board approves district-wide smoking ban

New rules are effective Feb. 1, 2014


For Mark Van Duser, who works out regularly at the Cedar Hills Recreation Center, there's only one thing wrong with his visits to the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District facility and its adjacent park along Cedar Hills Boulevard.

"It's most annoying to be walking through the park and have some jerk blowing smoke around," the 35-year resident of Cedar Hills said on Tuesday afternoon. "You can't help but get the stuff on you or breathing it in, so I was very much in favor of having this ban."

Van Duser refers to a ban on smoking on all park district properties beginning on Feb. 1, 2014. The McKinley Road resident was the sole citizen to speak regarding the ban during Monday night's meeting of the district's board of directors. The board passed the smoking ban ordinance in a 5-0 vote.

The vote bans smoking on all grounds and facilities within the district’s 50-square-mile service area, including parks, trails, parking lots and athletic fields. Smoking is already prohibited inside district buildings. The board approved the rule change and complete ban following a second reading of the ordinance.

Presented in its first reading at the board’s Nov. 4 meeting, the ordinance defines smoking — based on the Oregon Indoor Clean Air Act — as “inhaling, exhaling, burning or carrying any lighted or heated tobacco or other non-tobacco legal/illegal smoking substance” on or in district ground, facilities and buildings," it reads, noting that the board "believes smoking interferes and is inconsistent with and detrimental to the appropriate use of district’s buildings, grounds and facilities by the district’s patrons, visitors and staff."

Following extensive research on the issue, the district’s Parks Advisory Committee proposed the idea of a smoke-free park district to the board in September. Park district staff subsequently conducted two public meetings, an online survey and other communications inviting comments from residents. Opposition was minimal, noted Bob Wayt, the district's communications director.

The reaction was little surprise to the district's General Manager Doug Menke.

“This rule change encourages healthy lifestyle choices for our residents, which is consistent with our mission,” Menke said in a statement. “Other benefits include cleaner air, less litter and reduced fire risk.”

The park district is the latest in an increasingly long line of public agencies to adopt a smoke-free or tobacco-free policy, noted Washington County Public Health Division officials. Local and regional examples of property-wide smoking bans include the city of Beaverton, the Beaverton School District, the cities of Hillsboro, Lake Oswego, Bend, Roseburg and Sherwood, among others.

“THPRD’s smoke-free policy demonstrates a commitment to children, park users and employees to improve the health of the community,” said Carla Bennett, Washington County's tobacco prevention and education program coordinator. “It is people-friendly, eco-friendly and animal-friendly.”

For more information, visit thprd.org or call 503-645-6433.

Resident credits professor with his smoke-free career

Mark Van Duser, an electrical engineer and Cedar Hills resident since 1978, said he's been an avid anti-smoker since 1964, a time when his stance was far from fashionable.

The reformed smoker admits he learned the hard way that puffing around others wasn't as cool as society had made it out to be at the time.

"In some classes, people were allowed to smoke," he recalled of his days at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. "During the final exam, I lit up a stupid cigarette, and the professor just about threw me out of the class. On my way out, I threw out that pack of cigarettes into the waste can, and I never looked back."

Van Duser was the only person to speak up during the public comment period at Monday night's Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District board meeting, when a unanimous vote led to a ban on smoking on all district properties.

The way he sees it, lighting up nearly cost him his education and career.

"Think of the impact that would've had," he said. "If I'd flunked that class, I might've flunked all the rest of 'em too. I would not have my degree and not had my business.

"What a life-altering incident."

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