SAN LUIS, Ariz. – If a youth group has its way, people who smoke in this city’s parks will face fines as stiff as those they’d pay if they got caught littering.
The South Yuma County Youth Anti-Tobacco Coalition is set to appear before the San Luis City Council later this month with a request for adoption of an ordinance banning smoking not only in the parks but in all city-owned athletic fields.
And in efforts to bolster their case, the youths plan to present the council with the results of an informal survey of residents’ views about a ban on smoking at the city facilities. Of more than 400 people polled, coalition members say, nearly 80 percent favored the restriction.
The coalition is made up of youths between the ages of 12 and 18 who are affiliated with Campesinos Sin Fronteras, a San Luis-based nonprofit organization that provides health and other services to farmworkers and low-income families in the south county. The youth group mobilized more than a year ago to play a role in discouraging teens from taking up smoking, helping adults kick the habit and in reducing the health risks of second-hand smoke.
Key to achieving those goals, say coalition members, is a smoking ban in city parks and sports fields, accompanied by fines or other penalties.
“There has to be a penalty,” said Esahai Esparza, a 17-year-old member of the coalition. “It’s a need, not just a wish.”
Dennisse Ibarra, 15, another coalition member, added: “I believe it would benefit everyone, because it’s not just those who smoke who are affected – second-hand smoke affects others.”
City officials were not immediately available for comment Tuesday.
The San Luis ordinance would be one of the first of its kind in Yuma County, says Luis Vasquez, the coordinator of the anti-tobacco program for Campesinos Sin Fronteras who is helping the youth coalition in its campaign.
“There are initiatives like this throughout the nation,” he said, “and in many cities ordinances of this type are being put in place.”
Apart from tobacco use, coalition members are counting on a smoking ban to combat a separate problem in San Luis, one of discarded cigarette butts littering public facilities.
As part of their yearlong campaign, coalition members visited parks and fields in San Luis collecting the butts in a large clear jug that they then displayed prominently around the community to illustrate the littering problem.
In March and June, coalition members circulated throughout the city’s parks and fields and along some of the city’s main streets to poll residents about their views on a smoking ban. Of 403 polled, 319 said they were inclined to favor the restriction, 79 opposed and the remaining people either said they had no opinion or declined to answer.
According to the poll, 60 percent said it is common to seek people smoking at city facilities, even when youngsters are nearby.