Committee seeks county's next nicotine-free ordinance

Tuesday, February 26, 2019
A nicotine-free ordinance would keep not only cigarettes out of public parks, but also more recent trends like e-cigarettes and vaping devices.
Photo by Seth Boyes

Community representatives with the local Healthy Hometown Initiative want to see cities in Dickinson County adopt a broader approach to smoking and other tobacco use in public areas. The initiative is the successor to Wellmark Insurance's Blue Zones campaign, and dozens of Lakes Area figures have been working alongside Wellmark for several months to brainstorm ways the community can improve its overall health specifically through the initiative's three-pronged approach, "Eat Well, Move More, Feel Better." The Feel Better Committee hopes to have appointments on the books with most of the local government agencies soon, and discuss a potential transition to nicotine-free ordinances, rather than smoke-free ordinances, by July.

"Right now, the state policy is smoke-free," Brandon Rohrig, director of population and public health at Lakes Regional Healthcare, said during the initiative's January meeting. "It doesn't get rid of chewing tobacco. It doesn't get rid of vaping. That's what nicotine free is. It just takes it one step farther."

The city of Spirit Lake already has a nicotine free policy because of its previous certification as a Blue Zone with Wellmark. The Spirit Lake City Council adopted the ordinance Feb. 9, 2016, under former mayor Blain Andera. The ordinance banned the use of any tobacco product, nicotine product or electronic vaporizer in publicly owned outdoor parks, recreational facilities and the area surrounding the Spirit Lake Public Library. The ordinance does not apply to prescription medications or products, such as nicotine gums or patches, meant to help smokers kick the habit.

"Pretty much anything you can think of that people are wanting to do now, we (included) then because we were getting some pretty good input and advice from the Blue Zones Project," Spirit Lake City Administrator Gregg Owens said. "This wasn't passed because we were experiencing any particular problems at the time, but was passed to be proactive."

The Healthy Hometown's Feel Better Committee intends to use the Spirit Lake ordinance as an example in talks with other municipalities. Committee members intend to contact officials with Dickinson County, Arnolds Park Amusement Park, and the cities of Arnolds Park, Okoboji Milford, West Okoboji, Wapheton and Orleans. The Spirit Lake ordinance meets Iowa Department of Public Health guidelines, according to notes from the Feel Better Committee, and Rohrig said, if other municipalities adopt ordinances which also comply, signage for the new policy may be available free of charge. Rohrig said installation and enforcement would be up to local officials. That hasn't been a problem so far in Spirit Lake, according to Owens.

"We haven't had any issues, that I'm aware of, in our parks with people violating this ordinance," Owens said. "Once it was passed, we haven't had any issues with enforcement. We haven't had any issues with complaints."

Overall, he said the city is happy to be part of a potentially growing trend in the region.

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