COVINGTON -- The Newton County Recreation Commission is proposing that tobacco products be banned in all county-owned and operated parks.
Recreation Commission Director Tommy Hailey made a presentation to the Board of Commissioners at a work session Tuesday night, and the matter is expected to be brought to a vote in December.
The Recreation Commission is teaming up with The Newton County Community Partnership, which has been working since 2000 for a tobacco-free community, according to Director Laura Bertram.
The proposed ordinance would prohibit indoor and outdoor use of all types of tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco, at all times. The ordinance was modeled after that of the city of Duluth and other communities nationwide, said Jenny Carter with the County Attorney's Office.
The Recreation Commission is in charge of 16 facilities that would be impacted, along with four county-owned parks that are not under the Recreation Commission's jurisdiction: Lake Varner, Factory Shoals, Chimney Park, and the Covington Square. The Recreation Commission will also speak with municipal governments about imposing the tobacco ban in municipal parks, Hailey said.
If approved, the effective date would be April 1.
Hailey said a public education campaign will be launched and signs placed in parks between approval and the implementation.
In addition to the Community Partnership, other partners on the tobacco-free campaign are Friends of Newton County Parks; Newton County Drug Free Coalition, Friends of Newton County Miracle League, Little League Baseball Inc., Dixie Boys Baseball Inc. and Newton County Health Department.
Partners will help secure grant money for signage, brochures and education.
Hailey said the goal of having tobacco-free facilities is to reduce health issues related to tobacco use in children.
Tobacco use contributes to the top four leading causes of death in Newton County -- cancer, heart disease, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke -- Hailey said.
With statistics showing that 27 percent of Newton residents smoke, "if my math is correct, 73 percent of people here that don't smoke have to tolerate second-hand smoke from those that do," he said.
Hailey cited a report by the 2012 Georgia Youth Tobacco Survey Summary indicating that 10 percent of Georgia high school students smoked their first cigarette before age 11; 48 percent of Georgia middle school and 54 percent of high school students who have asthma have been exposed to second-hand smoke; and 11 percent of Georgia middle school students and 23 percent of high school students use tobacco products.
Once the ordinance is effective, violators will be asked to put away tobacco products, said Carter. If they refuse, they will be asked to leave the property. If they still refuse, the Sheriff's Office will be called and they will be charged with trespassing, she said.