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Youth Council mayor takes aim at vaping and wins city council support

Jun 15, 2018 11:20AM ● Published by Carl Fauver

Taylorsville Youth Ambassador Bryn Gale lobbied city council members on behalf of a city ordinance change and won their support. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

By Carl Fauver | carlf@mycityjournals.com 

It is now illegal in Taylorsville to smoke or vape in parks or their parking lots. All thanks to a high school senior. 

“I’ve been (Taylorsville) Youth Council adviser for several years and have never had a council member take on this kind of a challenge; I’m just so proud of Bryn,” City Council Coordinator Kristy Heineman said. 

“This is a very proactive and forward-thinking ordinance change, and Bryn explained it so well; I’m proud to support it,” City Councilwoman Meredith Harker added. 

And after congratulating Youth Council Mayor Bryn Gale personally, Mayor Kristie Overson said, “I know Bryn’s put a lot of hard work into researching this issue and did a great job explaining it to the council. This will be a positive change. She should be proud.” 

A lot of high praise for a Murray High School Senior — and Taylorsville resident — who didn’t so much “fight” city hall, as she worked to educate decision makers. 

“After attending an anti-drug conference in Washington, D.C.,” Gale explained. “I really wanted to help the city council to better understand that ‘smoking’ these days is not so much about cigarettes as it is about vaping. So, after doing a lot of research, I decided to try to get them to change the law.” 

The conference Bryn attended was a meeting of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. According to its website, “the mission of CADCA is to strengthen the capacity of community coalitions to create and maintain safe, healthy and drug-free communities globally.”  

It was on that trip Gale got to know another public health and safety advocate from the Salt Lake Valley. 

“I knew Bryn a little bit before the CADCA conference, but that’s where we really started to talk about ways we might work together to combat cigarette smoking and vaping in public places,” said Salt Lake County Health Department Educator Julia Glade. “This is the one thing I love about my job: finding someone who is as passionate as I am about helping people to be healthier.” 

While doing her research, Gale learned cigarette smoking continues to decline among teens, but the number of people who vape to get their nicotine is going up dramatically. Here in Utah, the number of teens who vape grew by 500 percent, from 2011 to 2017. 

“It has been illegal to smoke cigarettes and cigars in Taylorsville parks and other public areas for a long time,” Bryn said. “But the ordinance did not make vaping illegal, and it also didn’t include smoking other things, such as marijuana. My ordinance amendments dealt with that.”

After Gale and Glade studied the issues, Bryn sought out legal counsel before taking the amendments before the city council. 

“She met with our attorneys and really did a fine, thorough job with this,” said Taylorsville City Attorney Tracy Cowdell. “We could tell she was determined about this and had done her homework. So we were glad to help her a little with writing the ordinance amendment.” 

Gale’s research showed, Taylorsville leaders would not be blazing new territory but was simply following anti-smoking ordinance updates enacted in other areas.

“Taylorsville is actually one of the few cities (in the Salt Lake Valley) that has not yet included vaping in its smoking ordinance,” she told city council members. “And (Taylorsville is) one of the few cities that still allows smoking in parking lots at city parks.” 

At one point during Gale’s presentation to the city council, Council Chairman Brad Christopherson asked Unified Police Taylorsville Precinct Chief Tracy Wyant, “Do you have enforcement concerns about this, chief?” 

Wyant responded, “Yes.” 

However, as the discussion continued, council members seemed to reach a consensus that strengthening Taylorsville smoking prohibitions was “the right thing to do.”

In the end, Gale’s proposed municipal code amendments passed the council on a 4-to-1 vote.  In casting the lone dissenting vote, Christopherson said it was due to enforcement concerns and not because he opposed what the changes were meant to accomplish. 

The amended ordinance now makes it illegal to smoke or vape anything in Taylorsville parks or in their adjacent parking lots.  However, Wyant said his officers will be more inclined to explain the ordinance changes to offenders than to issue citations – at least initially. 

“Mostly, I wanted to address the issue of vaping, because the companies that make the vaporizers are clearly targeting young people,” Gale said. “They are selling products with all kinds of different flavors and in colorful packaging. But in the end, they are simply trying to hook teens on nicotine. I’m grateful the city council supported my amendments to help fight that.” 

Gale — and the other 20 members of the 2017–18 Taylorsville Youth Council — have now officially wrapped up their duties for the year, after assisting with the just-completed Taylorsville Dayzz celebration. Applications for the 2018–19 Youth Council will be available later this summer at www.taylorsvilleut.gov.

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