Tobacco products took a step closer to being banned in Fort Smith's parks following a unanimous vote by the Parks and Recreation Commission on Wednesday.

Secondhand smoke as a health hazard and the influence of smoking around children were some of the main concerns Parks and Recreation Director Doug Reinert and the commissioners discussed.

"Smoking is detrimental to one's health, and just because a person has a habit and chooses to smoke — that's their right, but they can't inflict that on other people," Commissioner Sherry Toliver said.

The ordinance that Reinert drafted is modeled after one that Sebastian County has, he said.

"It's not only a secondhand smoke issue, but it's a littering issue," Reinert said.

Commissioner Lacey Jennen, who has worked with the grounds crew at the University of Arkansas, said that before the university placed a ban on smoking on campus, "the amount of cigarette butts was unreal."

"When the ban went into place, it helped tremendously, not with the regular litter, but particularly with the cigarette butts," Jennen said.

The commissioners discussed the issue of music festivals or other events at parks where people typically smoke. They voted to add a section to the ordinance that would require entities renting parks for public events that want to allow smoking to provide designated smoking areas with receptacles.

Parks and Recreation Chair Casey Millspaugh said that he asked people for their opinions on the proposed ban via a post on his Facebook page and several comments suggested having designated smoking areas.

Commissioner Madeline Marquette pointed out that it would cost money to block off those designated smoking areas.

Millspaugh said that this ban could make smokers feel as though they are being pushed out.

"I think the same thing happened when smoking was banned in other places, but people eventually got used to it," Toliver said.

The park staff would put up signs to let people know that tobacco is banned, and the police would be responsible for administering tickets.

"Park staff does not have the right to issue tickets," Reinert said.

The draft of the ordinance states that a person convicted of violating the ordinance would be fined a maximum of $25 for a first offense, $50 for a second offense, $100 for a third offense and $250 for any further offenses.

The Fort Smith Board of Directors has to approve the ordinance for it to go into effect.