A proposed bill in the Tennessee legislature would allow local governments to prohibit smoking on playgrounds they own and operate.

The Hamilton County Commission will be voting on whether or not they support this legislation next week.

The bill, sponsored by elected officials from Knoxville, will only be applied in Knox County. Thus, it would not affect Hamilton County for now, but some county commissioners are hoping for that to change by voting in support of the state bill and sending a message to elected officials in Nashville.
"Our move next week will be to encourage that be expanded to the entire state as opposed to a private act just for Knox County," said Tim Boyd, Hamilton County Commissioner, District 8.

Commissioner Tim Boyd would like the option for Tennessee counties to enact smoke free playgrounds. He hopes it goes even further and wants to prohibit all tobacco use and e-cigarettes at Hamilton County playgrounds in order to improve the health of our children.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death. As of 2016, in Hamilton County about 20% of adults smoked which is slightly below the state average of 22%, but above the national average of 17%.
"There is no safe level of second-hand smoke even if you are outside. The effects of second-hand smoke are about 80% of smoking, and infants and children are the most vulnerable to those effects," explained Paula Collier, Tobacco Prevention Coordinator at the Hamilton County Health Department.

Children are affected the most due to their smaller body size, breathing more frequently, and their development. Second-hand smoke can also trigger asthma attacks and affect the heart and blood vessels.

"Sometimes when we are at parks and there are people smoking around us, it's hard for my children to play because they don't want to smell the smoke, also, just for health reasons," stated Melody Noles, a parent at a local playground.         

Smoke free environments protect the health of non-smokers and also help people who have quit smoking not to start again. Plus, smokers smoke less due to the inconvenience, improving their health.

"The health department supports legislation that protects public health especially our most vulnerable population, infants and children, who are obviously the most likely to use our parks and playgrounds in Hamilton County," Collier said.

"My grandchildren and I come out to this playground in Hixson a lot, and I don't really see a lot of smoking. But, I would not want that around my grandchildren, and I would be in favor of the ban," local grandparent Lisa Vaughn said.

Hamilton County’s Parks and Recreation website includes regional and community parks which have playgrounds that may be affected.

Channel 3 will keep you posted on the commission’s vote and response from state leaders.

Stay with the WRCB app for updates.