Bonifay officials are looking to ban tobacco use at City parks after students and health officials have spoken against the matter. [COLLIN BREAUX | The Advertiser]

At the urging of the Holmes County Department of Health and local students, the City of Bonifay has begun steps to ban tobacco use at City parks.

The City Council unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance making parks tobacco-free Monday, June 3. A second reading and final approval is scheduled Monday, June 17.

“You may remember back last summer, we had started talking about the tobacco-free ordinance for City parks,” City Clerk Rickey Callahan said. “The Holmes County Department has brought that to us and it was delayed at that time.”

James Lewis with the Health Department said Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law legislation allowing local municipalities to regulate tobacco use at parks at the end of the 2022 session.

Members of the program Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) spoke about benefits from the ordinance and the negative effects of tobacco use at parks during the City Council meeting.

“Why is smoking or vaping an issue? The most common type of litter is cigarette butts,” Holmes County High School sophomore student Sophia Fallis said. “When people litter, it becomes dangerous for animals and children. When kids find these cigarette butts and e-cigarettes laying all over the playground, they can eat and swallow these tobacco products–which can lead to health problems.”

The same thing also happens to pets, Sophia said.

“Secondhand smoke is breathed out by smokers or given off by burning tobacco, affecting those nearby,” Sophia said. “Secondhand smoke is associated with thousands of deaths each year. Therefore, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.”

Cylaus Baesby, also with SWAT, said smoke hurts his lungs since he has asthma.

“I enjoy the air but when people smoke, it stinks up the air,” Cylaus said. “It feels like I can’t breathe. The tobacco also isn’t good for the environment because it contains nicotine and dangerous chemicals that can hurt the water supply.”

Community member Richard Willsey asked how the ordinance would be enforced. Mayor Larry Cook said the Bonifay Police Department would monitor and prohibit tobacco use at parks.

In other Bonifay news:

-The Health Department purchased new benches for Middlebrooks Park, which are expected to be installed soon.

-Callahan gave an update on the City Hall renovation. Insulation is being put up. Sheetrock will be delivered and will also go up.

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