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Puffing goes poof outside city pool in new policy


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A new policy at the Franklin city pool is aimed at cutting back on smoking by forcing visitors to pay again if they leave to have a cigarette.

When the newly upgraded pool reopened this year, Franklin officials decided to change the pool rules. One of the changes this season included forcing anyone who leaves the aquatic center to pay admission again before being let back in.

The policy change has significantly reduced the number of people smoking outside the pool or in the parking lots, as well as cut down on other problems, such as people going to their cars to drink alcohol, officials say.

The city borrowed the idea from schools, which have smoke-free campuses and generally don’t allow people back into to sporting events if they leave, according to Chip Orner, director of parks and recreation.

POOL SMOKING

No pass-outs: The Franklin Parks Department changed its rules this year at the recreation and aquatic centers. Visitors who leave either facility must pay the admission fee again to get back in.

Reducing smoking: The rule has helped reduce the number of people smoking outside the pool. In previous years, 10 or more people might be smoking near the entrance at one time. Now, seeing smokers in the parking lot is rare.

Exceptions: Parks staff will still let people leave and come back without paying admission again if they have an emergency. The policy also does not apply to season pass holders, who can come and go from the pool whenever they want.

Smokers complained about the new policy at first, he said, but new complaints have stopped since the pool opened a month ago.

The city decided to make the pool and recreation center smoke-free facilities about four years ago, but smokers still could step outside the front door or pool gates and light up near the building or in the parking lot, Orner said. Visitors approaching the pool might pass by 10 or more people smoking near the front gate, Orner said.

Parks staff would let them back into the pool when they were finished with their cigarette, but now people are less likely to leave the aquatic center because they’ll have to pay another $5 to get back in, Orner said.

The new policy hasn’t eliminated smoking. Some people have paid to get back into the pool after leaving, but far fewer people are smoking in front of the building, Orner said. Those who leave to smoke are asked to sit in their vehicle to reduce secondhand smoke, he said.

“Our goal is that we’re trying to be a family friendly facility, and the last thing I want is having people to walk through secondhand smoke. And believe it or not, that’s how it was in previous years,” Orner said.

The rule reduces the amount of secondhand smoke in a public place and cuts down on the number of smokers seen by children and teens, Partnership for a Healthier Johnson County coordinator Jane Blessing said. Children observe and imitate adults, and reducing the number of smokers they see will lessen the odds that they try cigarettes later in life, Blessing said.

The move also can benefit smokers who are trying to quit or considering quitting, since they’ll be forced to go several hours without having a cigarette while at the pool, Blessing said.

“When people start to realize they can cope or stay off a cigarette for five, six, eight hours, that gives them encouragement,” she said.

Orner got the idea from local schools, which are smoke-free and typically don’t allow people to leave sporting events, such as basketball or football games.

Staff working games at Franklin Community High School may let a person out if they need to get an umbrella when it’s raining or to grab a blanket on a cold night at football games, high school assistant athletics director Scott Knapp said. Otherwise fans aren’t allowed to leave and come back in without paying as a way to assure people aren’t getting into trouble outside the event, he said.

Most people already know that there is no smoking on school grounds, so staff rarely catch people smoking outside events, Knapp said.

“We make it clear our campuses are a smoke-free facility, and we do our best to manage that. So far it’s been pretty good, and I haven’t seen smokers at high school events,” he said.

Staff at the Franklin pool will allow people to leave if they have an emergency, such as if they need to get extra diapers for their child, Orner said.

The new policy only affects people who pay for a single-day admission, since someone with a season pass can come and go as they please, he said. But additional efforts by staff to remind visitors that they can’t leave without paying again has eliminated most smoking, Orner said.

The parks department received about 10 complaints about the new policy in the first week after the pool opened. But since then, people have learned about the new rule and aren’t making new complaints, Orner said.

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