Scotland County parks could be smoke free by next summer, county Health Director Wayne Raynor told a recreation advisory board on Wednesday.
Raynor said he wanted the recreation board’s help as health officials try to formulate a possible ban on smoking at county-owned buildings, vehicles and grounds.
If approved Scotland County would be one of only a dozen counties in North Carolina to ban smoking on its grounds.
About 81 counties already ban tobacco use in government buildings. There are a total of 233 municipalities that have instituted such bans. North Carolina prohibited smoking in most bars and restaurants in 2010.
Raynor said a ban should improve public health.
He cited several studies that talked about the dangers of smoking and second hand smoke. A 2006 U.S. Surgeon General report indicated that there was no risk-free level of exposure to second-hand smoke and “that secondhand smoke has been proven to cause cancer, heart disease and asthma attacks in both smokers and nonsmokers.”
Raynor said cigarette butts can be problematic in parks with about 7,000 reported cases of children having to go to the emergency room after eating cigarette butts in parks.
“Considering what tobacco has meant to North Carolina, it has taken us years, but I think we have come to the realization that this is the best way to promote public health,” Raynor said.
Failure to stop smoking after an oral or written warning could result in a fine.
The county Parks and Recreation Advisory Board said it would table any action on the issue until next month. That board could vote a resolution of support.
Raynor said he also plans to make a presentation to the county Board of Commissioners.
The county Health Board can enact the ban on its own, but Raynor said it would be better to have the support and advice of other county entities.
“If we do decide to do this, we would shoot for next year,” Raynor said. “That would give people time to realize that this change is coming.”