New Smoke-Free Ordinance in Fair Oaks Parks

Fair Oaks, CA  |  Story by Shaunna Boyd

FAIR OAKS, CA (MPG) - The Fair Oaks Recreation and Park District (FORPD) Board of Directors recently passed a new smoke-free ordinance that is now in effect for all parks in the District. The Fair Oaks Youth Advisory Board (FOYAB) presented the Smoke, Tobacco, and Vape-free Parks Policy proposal to the Board as part of the Healthy Parks Policy—which promotes healthy activity, outdoor recreation, and community involvement.

FOYAB is a youth leadership program for students in 6th through 12th grade.  FOYAB serves in an advisory capacity to the Board of Directors, allowing Fair Oaks youth to participate in District programs and help impact policy. FOYAB wants to improve the health and wellbeing of Fair Oaks residents and to ensure that the parks are safe areas for outdoor recreation.

Secondhand smoke is a known health hazard, and the trash discarded by many smokers creates an environmental concern as well. Although California has some of the strictest smoking laws in the nation, many communities are enacting local policies to further limit secondhand smoke exposure in outdoor recreation areas. Sacramento County Tobacco Control Coalition (TCC) advocates for a completely smoke-free society and, to further that goal, they provide education and support to local communities in the development and implementation of smoke-free policies.

Katy Coss, FORPD recreation superintendent, partnered with Sacramento County TCC to draft the policy proposal and create the official language of the ordinance. Coss said, “The Tobacco Coalition advised how to go about it and offered so much information about the process and best practices…It was a really great partnership, and they were so invested in the youth participation as well.”

The Board of Directors voted unanimously to adopt the policy. “The Board was very supportive,” said Coss. “And they were very happy to see the collaboration between the District, the Youth Advisory Board, and the Tobacco Control Coalition. It didn’t take too much to get them to vote yes.”

The new ordinance prohibits the use of all tobacco and smoke products, including cigarettes, vaping devices, and marijuana. The District is in the process of designing new signage for all the parks and creating educational resources to inform visitors and residents of the new park rules. Sacramento County police officers and Fulton El Camino park police will have the authority to issue citations to anyone who refuses to comply, but the primary measure “will be voluntary compliance enforcement,” said Mike Aho, FORPD district administrator. He explained that while there will be some citable offenses, such as smoking near a playground, in most cases people will be issued warnings. Aho acknowledged that “enforcement can be a challenge,” but in other places that have enacted similar ordinances “compliance is 90% across the board.” 

Chelsey Adams, FORPD recreation supervisor and FOYAB advisor, said that FOYAB will be providing $500 to fund the purchase of the first round of new signs. FOYAB also plans to organize multiple park clean-up days throughout the year to collect cigarette butts and other tobacco waste. The first round of clean-ups will reduce years of waste build-up and illustrate the importance of this policy for the health of safety of the parks. Waste collected during subsequent clean-up days will allow FOYAB to assess how well the policy is working during the first year of implementation and then to evaluate the policy’s impact over time.

FOYAB will also be involved in helping the District with policy outreach, education, and implementation. Coss said that the new signs should be placed by the beginning of the year, and the ordinance specifies that outreach will continue until the end of 2019.