By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — A proposed smoking ban for city parks was rejected Tuesday by members of the Wausau City Council.
After much debate, the proposal was defeated by a 6-5 margin.
In an email to Wausau Pilot & Review, council member David Nutting, who proposed the ordinance, said the ban sought to “preserve and protect the usefulness and beauty…of our public spaces and parks,”
“Bad air offends and is a cause to not enjoy, or to leave a place,” Nutting wrote. “Many folks rarely went to certain restaurants or bowling alleys or sporting events, etc., simply because of the awful smell and the lingering effects on your clothing and hair afterwards. Thankfully, good legislation has turned these environments into comfortable and healthier places for all.”
The proposed smoking ban, which would have included both cigarettes and vaping but not chewing tobacco, has been a hot-button topic for weeks in Wausau, drawing dozens of comments both for and against the ban on various social media sites. The majority of voters in a non-scientific Wausau Pilot & Review poll, which drew nearly 1,200 votes, were against the ban. Results of the poll were sent to all council members and to Mayor Rob Mielke.
Council President Lisa Rasmussen said such a ban could be difficult to enforce and said there is little solid evidence that open-air smoking truly risks the health of others. If the ordinance passes, the city will erect signs in the hopes that people will comply, to alleviate using police hours to enforce the ban.
“If they can’t prove the need and then are already telling people they ‘hope’ they obey the new ban, it is pretty easy to think violators not attending large events may not see much in the way of consequences,” Rasmussen wrote, in an email to Wausau Pilot & Review. “So then, how much impact is this ban really going to have?”
But Nutting says the proposed ban was also about keeping parks beautiful.
“Our parks should always look good, too,” Nutting wrote. “Unfortunately, the vast majority of individuals who choose to consume tobacco products, will carelessly litter their waste products everywhere. Playgrounds and picnic table placements and shelter areas are costing us all in labor to clean up as well as offending those who use those facilities afterwards.”
“All legislation will not bring joy and happiness to all, but in this act, it will to most; but ALL will benefit …. health and beauty-wise,” Nutting said.