Following a vote in October of 2020, the Michigan city of Grand Rapids is one of the latest municipalities in the state to implement bans on smoking and vaping in public places.
The catch, here, is that the city-owned golf club is exempt, per legislation that was passed by the Grand Rapids City Commission. In a 6-1 vote in favor of a ban on smoking and vaping in the city’s parks and playgrounds, the city’s lawmakers chose to push forth this measure on October 27, 2020.
According to legislation, the ban on smoking and vaping applies to all types of marijuana and tobacco products. The ordinance, serving as an amendment to the city’s overarching Clean Air Ordinance, entered into force on January 1, 2021 — similar to other cities and jurisdictions across the state of Michigan and the United States.
During the proceedings of the ordinance back in October, local Commissioner Jon O’Connor was the only lawmaker to vote against the measure. He took issue, specifically, with an amendment attached to the final ordinance that exempted the Indian Trails Golf Course, which is a city-owned golf club.
O’Connor said that the exemption was a prototypical case of the city government “picking winners and losers.”
“So basically what we’re saying is if I have enough money to go golfing at a golf course that’s barely fiscally-sustainable, that’s cool, I can have a cigar or cigarette. But if I’m one of our homeless folks living down at Pekich Park or at Heartside Park, I can’t smoke there anymore?” asked O’Connor, according to reporting at the time of the vote, from MLive.com. He told the hyperlocal news publication, via testimony during a Grand Rapids City Commission meeting, that he enjoyed cigars at the golf course. However, he is clear to point out that the golf course is a failing revenue generation source for the city.
O’Connor also said that the ban counteracts the city’s attempts to reform minor criminal infractions, including smoking in public. However, the near-unanimous vote shows an extant interpretation of such a so-called belief.
Grand Rapids public health officials intend for the ban to decrease cigarette butt and vape cartridge litter and create a healthier environment in city-owned parks and public spaces. Interestingly enough, much of the expected measures for enforcement on the park vape and smoke ban will be reliant upon posted signage communicating that the parks are tobacco-free environments.
According to city officials, Grand Rapids is one of nearly 60 jurisdictions in Michigan to have tobacco-free parks policies, including Sault St. Marie, Traverse City, Escanaba, Grand Haven Township, Howell, Ottawa County, Portage and all of Michigan’s state parks and protected lands.