Smoke-free playground bill hits wall in state house, but still has local support

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A bill that would give Tennessee municipalities the ability to ban smoking on playgrounds might be dead this session, but local officials still support it. 

Senate Bill/House Bill 9 formed as localized legislation for Knoxville that would allow the city to prohibit smoking on playgrounds owned by the local government. The House added an amendment that would extend the option for local governments. 

The bill made its way through the General Assembly this session – it passed its third consideration in the House in a 64-25 vote last week with the amendment that would allow smaller municipalities to “opt in” to the bill. 

Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, sponsored the bill and said that almost 30 agencies opted in. During the Senate’s session this week, the bill was referred back to the Commerce Committee to consider the House’s amendment. 

Sen. and Commerce Committee Chairman Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, confirmed that the bill would be moved back to the Commerce Committee next week during the Senate’s meeting, but the General Assembly website does not have the meeting listed on its website.

Briggs said he isn’t sure why the committee meeting isn’t on the calendar for next week or if it was an effort to kill the bill for this session.

While the bill’s future for this session is uncertain for the moment, some local officials would still like to see it passed. 

Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock said she would be contacting local legislators about opting Johnson City into the bill. 

She listed health reasons as well as litter concerns that would be alleviated by Johnson City’s ability to ban smoking at playgrounds or other public, outdoor places.

“If we can restrict smoking in playgrounds and public places and in ballparks and all that, the children aren’t watching adults smoke cigarettes,” Brock said. “We all know, the science is there that smoking is deleterious to your health.” 

The Carter County Commission considered the bill last month, but a failed vote kept the county from opting in. 

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