UPDATE: Smoking ban for city parks, after board approval. No fine, though.

ORIGINAL REPORT, 10:07 PM THURSDAY: City parks will be no-smoking zones if the Board of Park Commissioners‘ recommendation becomes final. That’s according to our partners at The Seattle Times, who report that the board voted tonight to back the ban. As we noted when the proposed ban came to light in March, it’s been five years since Seattle Parks mulled a ban and then decided on restrictions instead. What commissioners voted for tonight is a revised plan explained in this briefing paper – no citation or fine for violators, who would instead be “educated” and warned.

1:58 PM: Parks has announced that Acting Superintendent Christopher Williams decided today to implement the ban, which will take effect in a month. Here’s the news release:

Acting Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent Christopher Williams decided on Friday to ban smoking in all Seattle parks. Just yesterday evening, the Board of Park Commissioners voted 8-0 to recommend that the Superintendent enact a smoking ban.

The new rule would expand the existing smoking ban from within 25 feet of another park visitor to no smoking on any publically accessible park land. The smoking ban takes effect in 30 days.

The ban will be enforced by trained park staff who will issue verbal and written warnings. Park staff will have no authority to issue fines or exclude smokers from parks.

“Our mission as a park and recreation agency is to provide healthful and welcoming places for all residents to enjoy,” said Christopher Williams. “The smoking ban is about protecting the rights of everyone to have a smoke-free environment—particularly in parks, where communities gather to recreate, enjoy the outdoors or exercise.”

Seattle’s action follows similar bans in more than 1,000 other cities and jurisdictions nationwide, including Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Portland.

Enforcement of the new rule would primarily be a matter of education. The enforcement protocol for the new rule was developed in 2012 in conjunction with the Racial Disparity Project (then part of the Defender Association, now part of its advocacy successor organization in the Public Defender Association). This protocol does not include excluding people from a park because they are smoking.

Park Rangers would approach smokers to ask, “Did you know smoking is not allowed in parks?” and provide them with information on where they can smoke and a resource card with information about the policy and resources for help in quitting tobacco. The next level of enforcement would be a verbal warning. Seattle Parks expects a large percentage of smokers to voluntarily comply with these requests or verbal warnings.

The Park Board held a public hearing on the proposed ban on April 16 and a public comment period on the proposal ended on May 7. In response to comments at the hearing and to written comments expressing concerns that the ban would have a disproportionate impact on homeless people of color, Seattle Parks and Recreation agreed to mitigate the impact of the ban with the following provisions:

1. No citation: The revised proposal eliminated the infraction citation (which has a $27 fee) that was originally proposed as part of the smoking ban enforcement strategy.

2. Right to Dispute: Parks will create a process by which individuals can dispute a written trespass warning given for smoking in a park. This process will be included in a public information card to be handed out by either Police or Park Rangers when issuing a written trespass warning for smoking along with information on where people can smoke and information about smoking cessation programs.

3. Enforcement Monitoring Committee: Parks will establish an Enforcement Monitoring Committee composed of 3-4 people, including a member of the Board of Park Commissioners, a representative from a human rights or civil rights organization, and a homeless advocate to review and monitor the impacts of the smoking ban. The committee will meet every 90 days so that any unintended consequences can be addressed quickly.

“We received many thoughtful comments from the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Seattle Human Rights Commission and others and we decided to alter our original proposal,” said Williams. “When many voices participate in conversations that shape public policy, the result is always better.”

The smoking ban is supported by several major partners of Seattle Parks and Recreation for health and environmental reasons.

“Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and disease both locally and in the United States, so it makes sense to take actions that promote health and healthy environments in our public spaces,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Interim Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County.

“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 unhealthful for people, discarded cigarette butts are a major source of park litter.

“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 #1 item found on Washington beaches during the 2013 International Coastal Cleanup. Filters are made of cellulose acetate, a plastic, and can take countless years to biodegrade. Cigarette butt filters are toxic waste. When wet, they leach out toxins which are lethal to fish.”

34 Replies to "UPDATE: Smoking ban for city parks, after board approval. No fine, though."

  • jwright May 28, 2015 (10:28 pm)

    I’m sure all that “educating” and warning will be even more effective than whatever plan is in place to keep dogs from running free in parks!

  • they May 29, 2015 (12:13 am)

    I’m for the ban. To bad the e cigs get such a bad rap, if it wasn’t for e-cigs I couldn’t say look at me smoke free now 3 years after 30. There’s a lease law in West Seattle? I work out every morning in one of our biggest parks and if there a law they forgot to tell the people in that park.

  • cj May 29, 2015 (12:38 am)

    Yes for the ban, I don’t expect it to do much good though. The bus stops are often camped by smokers and I have to hold my breath when I walk buy.

  • dsa May 29, 2015 (12:53 am)

    “…enforcement will primarily be a matter of education…”
    Something about unfair to homeless

  • Guy Olson May 29, 2015 (1:47 am)

    So I can’t wear my bikini bottoms on Alki this year?

  • JanS May 29, 2015 (2:12 am)

    maybe the smoking police can carry cannister of water (like for spraying your bushes), and simply wet down anyone caught smoking in a park…

  • Maggie May 29, 2015 (5:29 am)

    Yay! A step in the right direction for all.

  • Friend O'Dinghus May 29, 2015 (6:52 am)

    There goes my affirmative vote for any more park levies.

  • Anne May 29, 2015 (7:17 am)

    Education & warning for violators?? What a joke!

  • Btsea May 29, 2015 (7:21 am)

    Thus making Seattle the most over regulated city since the fall of East Berlin. After all, why just make personal choices when you can tell everyone else they have to live their lives exactly like you want them to. Enforcing this will definitely be the highest and best use of our city’s treasury.

    • WSB May 29, 2015 (7:29 am)

      DSA and Btsea – FWIW, the “briefing paper” linked in the story addresses both points – (direct link here: http://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/ParksAndRecreation/BriefingPapers/PB%20Briefng%20Paper%20-%20Smoking%20ban%205-20-15.pdf ) including the reasoning for not fining/citing violators, and the fact this is not a Seattle-only idea – from the last paragraph, “… the proposed ban on smoking in parks is similar to rules in more than 1,000 other cities and jurisdictions nationwide, including Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, and Portland. Most cities researched issue civil infractions for smoking, with fees ranging from $25 – $1,000 and/or 90 days in jail.”

  • datamuse May 29, 2015 (8:07 am)

    Thus making Seattle the most over regulated city since the fall of East Berlin.
    Clearly you’ve never been to Singapore.

  • miws May 29, 2015 (8:40 am)

    While on one of his tours in the Navy in the early ’90’s that included Singapore, my Brother brought me back a T-shirt like this:




  • Jeff May 29, 2015 (8:45 am)

    “Stop smoking, or I’ll ask you to stop smoking again!”

  • Captain Dave May 29, 2015 (10:23 am)

    “I am all for the ban too.” I think they should ban everything I personally don’t like. I don’t give a rats ass about what any of you smokers/drinkers/junk food addicts/gum chewers/and non-bicyclists want. What they should do is simply ban everything, close the parks and let the streets revert back to nature.

    Seattle has become so overrun with bureaucratic regulation, the only way to stop this nonsense is to pile on enough restrictions so that even idiots will recognize the urgent need to massively de-regulate Seattle.

  • quiz May 29, 2015 (10:34 am)

    Now if we could only impose a fine and add public sidewalks to the list of no smoking zones…

  • quiz May 29, 2015 (10:42 am)

    Now if we could only impose a fine and add public sidewalks to the list of no smoking zones.

  • anonyme May 29, 2015 (11:15 am)

    I’m all for a ban on smoking. What I’m against is another toothless law. No wonder there are so many violations in this City, from speeding to fireworks to off-leash dogs to public pot smoking. There is no enforcement whatsoever, which not only renders most public safety laws meaningless, but sets a terrible precedent of laissez-faire entitlement.

  • TBone May 29, 2015 (11:31 am)

    Should be a real interesting hempfest this year! Or does marijuana get a pass?

  • Diane May 29, 2015 (1:01 pm)

    thanks for posting the link TR; yes, the truth is, Seattle is way way way behind most west coast cities in prohibiting smoking in public spaces, and as TR noted, way way way behind many other US cities
    for health reasons, I’m all for any/all bans on smoking
    as others have noted, I’m afraid the parks board got battered by the crowds claiming this was all about anti-homeless (not) to have way way way watered this down to be nearly ineffectual
    yay for the ban on smoking in parks
    boo for zero fines

  • Diane May 29, 2015 (1:11 pm)

    yes, the story I saw last night said the hemp fest can get a permit for the event to allow smoking

  • ChefJoe May 29, 2015 (2:17 pm)

    Diane, remember when cell phone use while driving was a secondary offense and is now a rarely enforced (although I hear there’s an emphasis patrol happening soon/now) primary offense where one can be pulled over for just the phone use ? Also the “too many compostables in your trash” $1 fine that was recently passed ?

    Watered down laws are the government equivalent of boiling a frog starting with room temperature water (I would say “crab” to keep it PNW but that would overcook a crab).

  • jwright May 29, 2015 (2:42 pm)

    I’m not sure what your point about “watered down laws” is, ChefJoe or how it relates to frog-in-the-pot metaphor. Can you elaborate please?
    anonyme very succinctly sums up my thoughts.

  • Righton May 29, 2015 (3:35 pm)

    Perfect anonyme. Exactly what I was thinking. I happen to agree with the ban but why even pass it as a law if it’s not enforced/has no consequences? Very definition of lip service. It makes as much sense as me yelling out the window, no soap on Tuesday. Who is going to listen or care?
    People do what they want and say f u to citizens if called out, ie off leash dog owners. People even tell off police but at least police can ticket or arrest someone. Having no consequences does just what you are saying anon, it perpetuates and rewards the bad behavior and increases the arrogance/entitlement.

  • ChefJoe May 29, 2015 (3:41 pm)

    jwright, I mean that “warning” is phase 1 of the ban in parks. Given a few years (perhaps without a court challenge, perhaps with one) the mandated punishment will become more severe than a warning -> tickets -> multiple offenses increasing the fines and additional penalties and what have you.

  • Hmmm? May 29, 2015 (7:13 pm)

    What about my health and the fact that second hand smoke compromises my health and my ability to breathe, much less enjoy the park my tax dollars help fund?

    If we care so gosh darned much about people, why not care about me? My small children? The elderly woman being pushed in a wheelchair while undergoing cancer treatment?

    Why the heck do we have to review every law with a homeless filter? Why not a broader perspective?

    I’ve been a progressive a long time, but I’m starting to question this kind of softball regulation.

    What about the fact we are in a drought and smokers start fires with their butts? There is a really good reason to ban it and enforce it. If we have a statewide burn ban will the homeless still get to light up in a forested park so we can protect their feelings at the expense of a disaster?

    Sheesh. I say Escort out and trespass in first offense.

  • john on vashon May 29, 2015 (8:59 pm)

    Lol Jeff.

  • rob May 30, 2015 (11:54 am)

    Does this smoking ban also include BBQs and bonfires because they make for a lot more smoke in the air then a few people having a smoke

    • WSB May 30, 2015 (11:56 am)

      No, it does not.

  • Bradley May 30, 2015 (10:33 pm)

    So will this also apply to all the hipsters who rudely smoke dope in the parks in front of our kids as well?

    • WSB May 30, 2015 (10:38 pm)

      Smoking marijuana in public is already illegal.

  • Bradley May 31, 2015 (2:10 pm)

    Marijuana enforcement is also (by voter referendum and resulting city ordinance) the lowest priority for the SPD. I don’t expect marijuana smokers in parks to be approached by law enforcement before tobacco smokers under this ban.

  • lincolnparkdude June 1, 2015 (9:23 am)

    To all the smug, no smoking in the park folks, what about the stinking cars that clog the streets and parking lot’s near my home, you think that whiff of second hand smoke compares to the car you drove down to the park?

  • KM June 1, 2015 (6:27 pm)

    What a time to be alive.

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