Ashes still hot on cigarette battle

DOWNEY – Even with a law passed and new “no smoking” signs going up at Furman Park this week, those on the two sides of the cigarette debate still feel like arguing.

The youth on the Kiwanis Green Team on Wednesday held a party at Furman Park to celebrate the installation of the city’s first signs restricting smoking at public parks to small designated areas.

The signs were the result of a hard-fought and sometimes contentious public relations campaign by the Green Team last fall that had them filling up the City Council chambers and listening to 20-minute speeches by Councilman Mario Guerra against their effort.

The sheer number of children to attend council meetings was a major factor in the efforts success. Before voting in favor of the ban, Mayor Roger Brossmer said the issue was not a priority but that he had to respect the nearly 100 youth who attended the hearings.

The ban passed 4-1 in November, with Guerra voting against it.

Here’s the story on the law’s passage with a bunch of links detailing the entire saga.

Even with the issue settled, the Green Team and Guerra on Wednesday still had some fighting words left over from fall.

“A lot of people thought this issue wasn’t important, but we’re here to stay and people need to know that,” said Alex Gaytan. “This is a big issue.”

Guerra was on hand to tell a joke at the Concerts in the Park series.

“This law is so ridiculous,” he said. “It’s redundant.”

State law prohibits smoking within 25 feet of a playground.

Downey’s law ends up forcing people to smoke on sidewalks surrounding the parks, often bring the smoke closer to children than if there was no ban in place, Guerra said.

“It’s a completely unnecessary law,” he said.

The change was championed by Councilman Fernando Vasquez.

“Most importantly, it shows our youth that when they have passion about something and really believe that a change is needed, then can make a difference,” Vasquez said.

Councilman Luis Marquez was the first councilman to offer Vasquez his support.

Marquez, whose children play in youth sports in the city, said parents in youth leagues were sick of people lighting up within feet of young athletes.

The signs were paid for by anti-tobacco funds from the county. County officials at the event declined to comment for this story.

Furman was the first park to get the news signs. The rest will be installed at every city park within the next few weeks, according to a press release from the city.

The Green Team have attended area parks to pick up cigarette butts a few time since their campaign began last year. They did a butt pick-up this week and recorded the biggest increase in cigarette butts at Furman Park.



3 Replies to “Ashes still hot on cigarette battle”

  1. smokefree1988

    To benbaeder: Yes, it does.

    Congratulations are due to The Green Team, and the city of Downey.

    It’s unfortunate that Councilmember Mario Guerra represents a segment of the residents of Downey. It appears that he has other interests that matter more to him than his constituents.

    The council should consider expanding the smokefree policy to its entire parkland so children will not see images of people smoking as a normalized activity in a park.

    There 625 jurisdictions in the USA that adopted a smokefree park policy including 131 locations in California.

  2. Downey Residents for Freedom

    Don’t Tread on Me Downey!

    We should be teaching the wonderful children of Downey about freedom and liberty, and not use them as political propaganda. Teach them that cigarettes are harmful to your health but the true glory of America is that you have a CHOICE. I am saddened that the City Council wastes valuable time and money violating civil liberties, and perhaps The Green Teams efforts are misguided.
    I hate cigarettes in the park, but I love freedom more!

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