By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – If you bring your smokes with your children to a park in Safford, keep them in the parking lot or you could face a hefty fine for the habit.
By a unanimous vote, the Safford City Council enacted a new smoke-free parks ordinance at its Monday night meeting, creating a fine schedule for anyone caught smoking or vaping in any of the city’s parks. Smokeless tobacco products will still be permitted.
The action stemmed from a request from the anti-tobacco youth organization Graham County Students Taking a Road to Success (STARS), which first petitioned the council to ban tobacco at its parks at the council’s Feb. 27 meeting. The STARS group is organized under the umbrella of the Graham County Health Department and has Toni Palomino as its adult supervisor.
“I just want to thank the kids for bringing this (to our attention),” Kouts said. “If we get more youth involved, it’s only going to better our city, so I really do appreciate what you’ve done . . .”
The new ordinance states those found in violation “shall be punishable as a Class-2 misdemeanor” and face a minimum fine of $50 up to a maximum fine of $500. The new ordinance also alters the law for consuming or possession any alcoholic beverage in the park to a Class-1 misdemeanor with the same fine schedule as someone caught smoking.
Those who smoke may still do so in the facilities’ parking lots and on sidewalks along the perimeter of the parks. Enforcement of the new ordinance will be performed by the Safford Police Department upon regular patrol or by being called by a witness to an infraction.