PADUCAH, KY – The next time you go to a park in Paducah, leave your cigarettes in the car. Tuesday, the Paducah City Commission voted 4-1 to amend the city’s smoking ordinance.

The amendments ban smoking and vaping at city owned parks, sports arenas, playgrounds and trails. It says you’ll need to be at least 15 feet from those spaces to freely smoke.

There was plenty of debate Tuesday night, both by the commission and the audience. Commissioner Richard Abraham was the only no vote. He said he believes the ordinance goes too far. “OK. You can’t smoke on playgrounds, wellness parks, health parks and those designated areas, and that’s fine. But you’re telling me I can’t light up 200 yards away from that designated area. That seems unreasonable to me,” Abraham said. He is not a smoker, but he gave that as an example.

Abraham proposed a change to the amendment that would exempt outdoor walking trails, shelters, and golf courses from the places where smoking would be prohibited.

He said he believes, so long as people are outside and far enough from those designated areas, the city commission shouldn’t take away people’s freedom to smoke. Health experts including Dr. Patrick Withrow, a Paducah cardiologist, cited evidence showing the ordinance could lead to healthier citizens and lower smoking rates among young people.

For the most part, the changes will be enforced by citizens. That enables them to approach a smoker, remind them of the new regulation, and hope they put the cigarette down. Commissioner Allan Rhodes believes people will do the right thing. Abraham thinks if you walk up to a smoker and tell them what to do, it will create problems.

The ordinance allows the city manager to appoint city staff to charge those who violate the measure up to $50.

Six people spoke at the meeting: four in favor of the change and two against. The two against said they do not smoke, but they believe the freedom should exist for smokers. One woman, Yvonne Gray, said more laws will not change people’s behavior. But a former smoker, Larry Furmann, who now lives with COPD, told the commission the changes are what is best for young people in Paducah.

Research shows secondhand smoke can reach up to 13 feet away from a smoker.

Commissioner Sandra Wilson sympathized with Abraham’s reservations. She said she shared them originally, but has now come full circle. She said she’s reached out to the Owensboro Parks Department. That city has a similar ordinance, and Wilson said that city has had no issues.

Paxton Park is excluded from the smoking ban ordinance, because city leaders indicate the majority of the funding for that park is from private dollars —not public dollars.

Below is additional information about the ordinance on where people can smoke inside the city, from city spokeswoman Pam Spencer:

“The newly adopted ordinance continues the prohibition of smoking in enclosed public places and extends the prohibition to all places of employment, whether public or private.  The following locations are exceptions:  private vehicles, retail tobacco stores, designated workplaces pursuant to KRS 61.165, private organizations or clubs, and private dwellings unless the dwelling also is used as a childcare facility, adult day care center, assisted living facility, hotel/motel guest room, or health care facility.”