Kevin Valine

Modesto bans smoking in its 75 parks

The Modesto City Council voted Tuesday to ban smoking in all city parks. Cigarette butts lie in the Graceada Park pavilion last month in downtown Modesto, Calif.
The Modesto City Council voted Tuesday to ban smoking in all city parks. Cigarette butts lie in the Graceada Park pavilion last month in downtown Modesto, Calif. kvaline@modbee.com

The public soon will not be able to light up in the city’s 75 parks and along its trails – including the Virginia Corridor – and within 100 feet of the entrance and exit of a hospital.

The City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday to approve the smoking ban, which applies to cigarettes, marijuana and vaping. The ban will come back to the council at its next meeting for final approval and take effect 30 days after that.

Councilwoman Jenny Kenoyer cast the only “no” vote. Her concerns included that this was a way to target the homeless, and she questioned how the city would enforce the ban.

The council’s vote came after a lengthy and at times confusing discussion among council members. Some were concerned Modesto would turn smokers into criminals. City Attorney Adam Lindgren had said the penalty for violating the ban probably would be a criminal citation. But as Councilman Doug Ridenour pointed out, that’s similar to getting a ticket for jaywalking.

Modesto can issue administrative citations (which start at $100) or criminal citations. Lindgren said criminal citations are “the preferred and most commonly used tool” for the city. Those citations are $500 for an infraction and $1,000 for a misdemeanor.

The council also considered banning smoking in the city’s plazas – such as Tenth Street Plaza in downtown – as well as publicly owned gardens, open space and recreation areas, but narrowed the ban to parks, trails and hospitals. Councilwoman Kristi Ah You and college area residents approached the city with the ban.

About a dozen teens from Modesto High and the Elliot Alternative Education Center who belong to Protecting Health and Slamming Tobacco turned out to lend their support. PHAST is a partnership between the Stanislaus County Office of Education and the county’s Health Services Agency and has chapters at every junior high and high school in the county.

Modesto High student Kristina Zuroff told council members that Patterson, Turlock and Hughson have ordinances that ban smoking in parks.

Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316

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