The proposal is still in its early stages, with the county soliciting feedback from park users and the health department figuring out funding. One commissioner has made it part of his annual county goals.

The county’s indoor park areas, such as recreation centers, are already tobacco-free. The new designation would add outdoor areas, trails and the Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre.

“In an environment like a park where there are children around, the more children see adults smoking cigarettes, the more children think this is what adults do,” said Cathy Wendholt-McDade, district health behaviors director for Cobb & Douglas Public Health.

The ordinance would have to be approved by the county’s Board of Commissioners, where there will be an opportunity for public comment.

As the dangers of secondhand smoke cigarettes have become more apparent, more jurisdictions have been expanding their smoking cigarettes ordinances, said Wendholt-McDade.

But the trend worries Ted Skirvin, chairman of Cobb’s Libertarian Party.

“I think they are taking things a bit too far when they ban smoking cigarettes in a public park,” said Skirvin, providing his personal opinion and not necessarily that of the party. “A person has a right to smoke, as stupid of a choice as that is, but they have that right.”

That’s understandable, said Wendholt-McDade, “but about 16 percent of Cobb adults smoke cigarettes tobacco, and the other 84 percent don’t and they have rights as well. They have rights to free clean air.”

Implementing the policies is not expected to cost the county money. The health department would use federal grant money to educate park users and post signs at Cobb’s parks. If the ordinance is approved, the 72 sports and arts associations using the parks will have to help the county’s park rangers enforce the rules, said county parks director Eddie Canon.

Commissioner Woody Thompson, who represents the south Cobb area, took up the tobacco-free crusade after repeatedly walking through a smoky haze on his way into the hospital for his doctor visits. If hospitals can become smoke-free campuses, as several have in the metro area, then parks should be the same way, he said.

“People might say smoking cigarettes in a park won’t offend other people because you’re in the open air,” Thompson said. “But when you are walking beside other people, they are breathing in that secondhand smoke.”

Currently, Cobb’s only smoking cigarettes policies are those included in the state’s Smokefree Air Act of 2005, which bans smoking cigarettes inside most public places such as restaurants, state buildings and classrooms. Places such as bars and restaurants that don’t allow workers or patrons under age 18, outdoor work areas and hotel rooms designated as smoking cigarettes rooms are exempted.

Cobb’s largest city, Marietta, passed its ban in 2009, initially to address complaints about cigar smokers at outdoor concerts in Glover Park on Marietta Square. Later that year, the ordinance was expanded to include all city parks. At the time, there was some opposition from bloggers and residents posting comments online, according to the parks director.

Clayton County passed its ordinance that same year, but didn’t meet any opposition.

Smokers violating the ban in Marietta face a $500 fine, and up to a $1,000 fine or six months’ jail time in Clayton.

Cobb officials have not yet discussed possible punishment.

Smoke-free parks

Georgia locations with smoke-free or tobacco-free ordinances for parks, with date policy adopted

- Athens-Clarke County, July 2005

- Clayton County, June 2009

- Clinch County, April 2010

- Douglas County, 2007

- Henry County, January 2007

- Lumpkin County, December 2009

- Miller County, November 2011

- Oconee County, January 2012

- Troup County, June 2007

- Alpharetta, March 2011

- Douglasville, 2007

- Duluth, December 2011

- Gainesville, February 2009

- Kennesaw, February 2006

- Lyerly, March 2010

- Marietta, October 2009

- Reidsville, September 2010

- Rome/Floyd County, November 2008

- Roswell, May 2010

- Savannah, August 2010

- Trion, February 2011

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