A divided Davenport City Council approved a Scott County Health Department proposal prohibiting smoking and vaping in city parks and park facilities, with the exception of city golf courses.
A violation of the ban may be charged as a municipal infraction or simple misdemeanor carrying a $100 fine.
Alderman voted 7-2 Wednesday granting final passage banning tobacco and nicotine products, including vaping products, in city parks after debating and approving an amendment by Alderman Ben Jobgen, Ward 6, to carve out an exception for city golf courses. City disc golf courses are not exempted from the smoking and vaping ban.
Chad Dyson, city parks and recreation director, expressed concern that prohibiting the use of nicotine products on the city courses would result in lost revenue.
Dyson estimated about 10% to 15% of the roughly 10,000 golfers who regularly purchase rounds at city courses annually use tobacco. Assuming an average of six rounds per golfer, Dyson estimated a loss of anywhere from $75,000 to $225,000 in course revenue from a ban.
“The courses we benchmark against, which are the other local municipal courses in the Quad-Cities, to my knowledge none of them have a tobacco-free policy,” Dyson told the City Council. “And that’s including Scott County, which has enacted a tobacco-free policy in their parks, similar to what we are considering here, but they allow the use of tobacco on the course of play at the Glynn’s Creek Golf Course.”
Several cities, including Des Moines, though, have enacted tobacco-free park policies that include their golf courses.
“But by and large … what we’ve been able to find is the exemption to the course of play is common,” Dyson said.
Jobgen argued golf courses differ from city parks, which are more congested and more heavily utilized by children.
“In parks, people can find themselves in close proximity to others without control of other people’s spacing or movement,” he said. “However, on a golf course during the course of play, people are typically in groups of four people which are hundreds of yards apart. Therefore people have a significantly decreased risk of exposure to secondhand smoke on a golf course than they would in a park surrounded by others.”
City officials and county health officials say the goal of the ordinance is to create smoke- and nicotine-free parks that give families a clean and safe experience, promote and model healthy behavior, and discourage youth from smoking.
“And the influence of not seeing people frequently utilizing tobacco products can positively affect future behaviors. In my opinions, this is the desire of the overall ordinance,” Jobgen said. “However, the demographics of those that are on a golf course are much older and different than those of the influential youth we are trying to protect. Children do utilize golf courses, but, again, their exposure is significantly decreased.”
Alderwomen Marion Meginnis, Ward 3, and Maria Dickmann, Ward 2, disagreed with Jobgen’s rationale.
“Are we going to be leaders and set an example, perhaps, other golf courses will follow? Or, are we going to allow one segment of our parks to somehow function differently than the rest?” Meginnis said. “I think it does set a poor example. I see our public parks, and this may be a romantic notion, a place where children can thrive (and) where they can have positive athletic experiences … And as a former smoker (for 30 years) I cannot support this.”
Dickmann argued “even people in groups with their friends should have the opportunity for a smoke-free golf experience.”
The pair voted against exempting golf courses, but ultimately voted in favor of the amended smoking and vaping ban in city parks.
Aldermen Kyle Gripp, at-large, and Ray Ambrose, Ward 4, voted against the smoking and vaping ban.
“Any action you can take to reduce smoking is the right action to take,” Gripp said. “My least favorite things about the smoking ban in Iowa is that you can still smoke in casinos. In my opinion, you should either be allowed to smoke everywhere or nowhere.”
Ambrose previously has expressed concerns at the ability to enforce the smoking and ban, and the strain enforcement would have on the Davenport Police Department.
The ordinance takes effect upon publication.