Seattle commissioners fighting to ban smoking in parks

Mar 19, 2015, 9:50 AM | Updated: 10:36 am
A proposed rule would make it illegal to smoke within all public areas under Seattle parks' jurisdiction. (AP)

Seattle park commissioners want to ban smoking in all public parks in the city.

The proposed rule would make it illegal to smoke within all public areas under the city’s parks’ jurisdiction. The rule would not become part of the Seattle Municipal Code.

A public hearing on the rule will be held at 6:30 p.m. on April 16.

“We are asking the Board of Park Commissioners to consider this issue because smoking is incongruous with our values of healthy parks and healthy people,” said acting superintendent Christopher Williams. “Visitors come to parks to enjoy healthful, outdoor recreation. When there are smokers in a park, it diminishes others’ ability to do that.”

If the rule is passed, anyone violating it would receive a warning. Repeated violations would result in park exclusion.

The proposed rule would extend the original smoking bans put in place in 2010, which banned tobacco use within 25 feet of other park visitors in play areas, beaches, or playgrounds.

Following the public hearing on April 16, the Park Board will deliberate on the issue at its regular meeting on May 14, and make a recommendation to the superintendent. The superintendent will take the board’s recommendation into consideration, and issue a final ruling in mid- to late May.

Health and litter issues prompted the proposed rule.

“There’s no safe level of secondhand smoke,” said Matt DeGooyer, executive director of the American Lung Association in Washington. “We are very excited to see Seattle Parks and Recreation taking this step.

“Actions like this continue the steady progress toward de-normalizing smoking and tobacco use, making outdoor spaces a safer environment for impressionable youth and anyone who enjoys breathing clean, healthy air.”

In addition to being unhealthy for people, discarded cigarette butts are a major source of park litter, according to the city.

“Cigarette butts are the most littered item in the world, with an estimated 5 trillion discarded each year,” said Brice Boland, Washington State field manager for the Surfrider Foundation. “Cigarette butts were the number one item found on Washington beaches during the 2013 International Coastal Cleanup.”

Seattle Parks and Recreation would follow the lead set by many other major U.S. cities, including Portland, which passed a smoking ban in parks in February 2015. Other major cities that ban smoking in parks include New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Philadelphia.

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Seattle commissioners fighting to ban smoking in parks