Aldermen ban tobacco from Ocean Springs parks

By Krystal Allan - bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - At 17, Hallie Darphin has already accomplished something some adults will never do in a lifetime.  She got a city law passed.

"You can make a difference and it only takes one person," Hallie Darphin said.

The new law bans smoking in parks and ball fields in Ocean Springs. But, Hallie didn't do it alone. She had the help of the Ocean Springs' Mayor's Youth Council. She served as committee chair for the group's Smoke-Free Ocean Springs Committee.  Council members met with the city's attorney, then, on their own, worked to create a smoking ban.

"When you have young teenagers come and say. 'This is an important issue for health in our community,' it really makes you, as a public official, stand-up and take notice," Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran said.

But the mayor's youth council isn't stopping with parks. The council wants to take its efforts a step further.

"We'd love for the whole city to be smoke free," Darphin said.

Mayor Moran said the next step in the process will likely be to make workplace offices and campuses smoke-free.

Council members hope their efforts will set the pace for other young people to follow and work for positive changes in their communities.

"A lot of people are like, 'I'm too young. I'm not good enough' or 'I'm gonna wait,' but why wait if you can do it right now," Darphin said.

It's a message these young people say you're never too young to put into action.

If you're interested in joining the council, council members will hand out applications August 12th at Ocean Springs High School.  The Mayor's Youth Council is open to high school juniors and seniors.  The deadline to submit applications is Friday, September 11th.

As for the parks, those specifically mentioned in the ordinance include: Little Children's Park, Martin Luther King Park, Fort Bayou Park, Hanley Road Park, Clay Boyd Park, Lemoyne Park, Trentwood Park, Inner Harbor Park, Gay Lemon Complex, Freedom Field, Steven Parker Fields, Alice Street Fields, Clay Boyd Ball Fields. As future parks open, they will also be included.

"Tobacco Free Park" signs will be posted at the entrances to the parks, and other gathering areas. The new rule takes effect in 30 days, but won't be enforced until the proper signs are erected.

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