GOLD BEACH – A proposal that smoking be banned on the Curry County Fairgrounds got a mixed reaction from the Fair Board, with some fearing that prohibiting smoking could cut attendance at one of the few small fairs that is now successful.
“I don’t like smoking. I’m glad you can’t smoke in the (fair’s) barn. But we have to consider the financial impact,” board member Lucie La Bonté said at Thursday’s meeting.
“The whole idea of going smoke free is the health of the county. It’s a big decision,” said Heather Eller, tobacco prevention/healthy communities coordinator at Public Health. “It really is about the health of our children.”
Eller made a presentation to the fair board requesting that the fairground – Events Center become smoke free effective next February for all events there, including the annual fair.
“We all want children in Curry County to grow up to lead happy, healthy, productive and prosperous lives,” Eller said.
“Smoke/tobacco free policies create a positive social norm that helps young people to not become smokers. Smoking is a childhood disease. More than eight of 10 long term smokers begin before graduating from high school,” she said.
Eller said that tobacco acts as a gateway drug and research from the Center for Disease Control shows that preventing tobacco use could help prevent addiction to other drugs.
“Smoke/tobacco free public spaces make it easier for the three out of every four smokers who wish they could quit, to quit, and to succeed at stopping smoking,” Eller said.
She said that when communities institute public area smoking bans, people smoke less at home.
Eller said smoking is now prohibited on the campus of the community college and is restricted in the parks.
She gave statistics that of the 17,947 adults in Curry County, 3,302 regularly smoke cigarettes and that 1,261 people suffer from a serious illness caused by tobacco use. Eller said $12 million is spent in the county on medical care for tobacco-related illnesses and $11 million in productivity lost due to tobacco-related deaths each year.
La Bonté said she did not want to turn people away from the fair.
“We are one of the few fairs making money,” she said.
“If someone’s having a wedding here, they may not have the wedding here because they can’t smoke,” La Bonté said.
Eller said that during the fair, volunteers from Public Health roamed the fair and picked up cigarette butts.
“We came back after the fair and collected cigarette butts. We spent two days. We have close to 1,500 butts in there,” she said, displaying a large glass container.
“I think it is very good we look at this situation,” Fair Manager Ron Crook said.
La Bonté said that the fair board could designate smoking areas on the fairground.
“There definitely can be smoking areas,” she said.
“If you do decide to go smoke free, people are compliant,” Eller said.
“I smoke,” said board member Ron Burris. “To me, designated areas is fine.”
Joel Bravo also favored smoking areas.
“I think designated areas, with a little security there are good, so people can go and smoke if they want,” Bravo said.
“I’ll get a list of fairs that are smoke free and check their success,” Crook said.
“I don’t think we should have smoking areas around the livestock barns at all,” La Bonté said.