- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

COLUMBUS, Neb. (AP) - The Columbus City Council has unanimously approved a measure to cut down on youth’s exposure to tobacco use and secondhand smoke.

The policy, which isn’t backed by potential legal ramifications or fines, places a tobacco-free designation on park areas where children are frequently present, the Columbus Telegram (http://bit.ly/1R8u5Y8 ) reported. These spots include playgrounds, picnic shelters, athletic fields and courts, concession stands and spectator viewing areas.

The East Central District Health Department will provide signs for tobacco-free areas, and the city says it will rely on citizens’ good conscience and peer pressure to enforce the policy.

Councilman Terry Reardon said that the policy is a way for citizens to be respectful of one another without adding a burden to the local police department.

Jim Bulkley, a Columbus city councilman, who announced last week he is running for mayor, said his approval vote was a tough decision because he sees both sides of the issue. He says he doesn’t want someone smoking around his grandchildren at a city park, but that he’s also not sure local government should tell people what is and isn’t good for them.

Tobacco use is already banned at the football stadium and baseball field in Pawnee Park, Pawnee Plunge Water Park and Columbus Aquatic Center. People are also asked not to smoke at Bradshaw Park.

The new policy doesn’t include popular fishing spots, the disc golf course in Pawnee Park or parking lots where fans often smoke during athletic events.

Health department officials said 18 other Nebraska communities have similar policies.

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Information from: Columbus Telegram, http://www.columbustelegram.com

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