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Seattle Board of Park Commissioners to host public hearing on smoking ban

The Board of Park Commissioners will host a special public hearing on Thursday, April 16, to take comments on a proposed parks-wide smoking ban.

The Board of Park Commissioners public hearing will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Kenneth R. Bounds Board Room at Seattle Parks and Recreation Headquarters, 100 Dexter Ave. N.

The proposed new rule would prohibit smoking in all public parks in the city of Seattle. This ban would extend the original smoking prohibitions put in place in 2010, which banned “smoking, chewing, or other tobacco use…within 25 feet of other park patrons and in play areas, beaches, or playgrounds.”

“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.”

The proposal to replace the current language in Parks Code of Conduct P 060 7.12.00 section 3.2.10 is as follows:

It is a violation of these rules for any person to smoke or light cigars, cigarettes, hookahs, tobacco, or other smoking material, within all publically accessible portions of property under Parks’ jurisdiction. For the purposes of this section, “smoke” or “smoking” means the carrying, holding, or smoking of any kind of lighted pipe, cigar, cigarette, or any other smoking equipment.

The Superintendent may suspend this rule in writing for any permitted event not open to the general public, provided that no employees, children or animals are exposed to smoke, and provided further that such smoking shall not create any fire hazard or create any danger of damage to property, plants or any park feature.

Breaking the rule against smoking would result in a warning, followed by a possible park exclusion for repeated violations. The rule would not become part of the Seattle Municipal Code.

“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.”

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.

“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.

Following the public hearing, 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.

A written briefing on the proposal is available here. Those who would like to comment on the proposal, but are not able to attend the public hearing are encouraged to submit written comments. Written comments carry equal weight to oral comments. Comments can be submitted in writing to until May 7.

The Seattle Board of Park Commissioners is a nine-member citizen board created by the City Charter. Four members are appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council; four members are appointed by the City Council; and one member is a young adult appointed by the YMCA Get Engaged  Program.

The Board generally meets twice a month, normally on the second and fourth Thursday, to advise the Parks and Recreation Superintendent, the Mayor, and the City Council on parks and recreation matters.

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