Carter County to join Knox, others in state-level ban on tobacco products on local playgrounds

Carter County is planning to join Knox County and others in an upcoming State Legislature bill banning tobacco products on city-owned playgrounds.

Carter County Drug Prevention Director Jilian Reece said she heard about the bill from Leah Festa, director of the Prevention Alliance of Tennessee.

“We learn more every year about the dangers and risks of smoking,” Reece said. “We want to make Carter County a healthy place to play and grow.”

In a letter to Senator Mark Pody, Smith County Mayor Jeff Mason said signs already inform citizens to not bring tobacco products onto playgrounds and ball fields.

“Even with signs, we continue to see tobacco use in our parks and ball fields that we feel is harmful to our environment as well as our families,” Mason said. “It is not the message we want to give to our youth.”

The bill as it stands now is opt-in, meaning cities or counties wishing to join the list of those under the bill must file for an amendment to the bill on the House floor.

If the bill becomes law, those on the list can now use the ban to create a local measure to more strictly enforce the ban.

Reece said the bill is crucial for CCDP’s efforts due to the system in which Tennessee law operates.

“Tennessee is a state of ‘pre-emptions,’” Reece said. “This means we cannot pass a law that is stronger than state law.”

With Knox County initiating the process for a new state law for a ban, she said this allows Carter County to benefit from the decision without having to campaign for a state law themselves.

“Knox did all the hard work, and now we can have the benefits,” she said.

The Health and Welfare Committee discussed the bill during their Tuesday evening meeting, where they approved a motion to add Carter County to the list on the bill.

The motion now goes to the full County Commission, which will have to approve the decision before the county can officially file for an amendment to the bill.

“This is a powerful tool for all of us,” Reece said.

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