Springfield puts up no-smoking signs in parks

Springfield puts up no-smoking signs in parks
An example of the signs that Springfield is putting up in its city parks. The town has two parks and a walking trail.

The air over Springfield’s city parks may stay a little bit cleaner these days. The city recently became the first in Sarpy County to pass a resolution against smoking in its public parks.

Omaha’s parks director, meanwhile, said there are no plans to implement a similar policy in Omaha.

Springfield, a town of about 1,600, has two parks and a walking trail. With funding from Tobacco Education & Advocacy of the Midlands, 10 anti-smoking signs have been posted in the public spaces.

“We want a healthier lifestyle,” Springfield Mayor Bob Roseland said, “and this is a natural step to do that.”

The town’s resolution does not outlaw smoking, and people using tobacco will not be fined. But the hope is that the signs will discourage smokers from lighting up.

Autumn Sky Burns, Sarpy County coordinator for TEAM, said she thinks the signs will be effective .

“It’s like the sign in the bathroom to ask people to wash their hands,” she said. Nobody fines people who don’t wash their hands, but it makes that healthy activity the normal thing to do.

Mark Welsch, president of the Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution, agreed. He compared the anti-smoking signs to stop signs.

“Most people don’t think about the penalty associated with running a stop sign; they just know that they (shouldn’t) do it,” Welsch said. When most people see signs like those in Springfield, he said, “they’ll just comply.”

Welsch and his group attempted in 2016 to persuade Omaha to put up no-smoking signs in its parks and at events such as Jazz on the Green. City Council members and Parks Director Brook Bench said at the time that they discussed the idea but determined that such a policy would not be enforceable.

Bellevue discussed a similar ban in 2015 and rejected the idea as untenable.

For Burns, Springfield’s resolution is about solving not only an air pollution problem, but also a litter problem. Dogs and small children who ingest cigarette butts can become very sick and even die, Burns said.

“Most people don’t know what happens to cigarette butts when (they) throw them on the ground,” Burns said.

The World-Herald News Service contributed to this report.