SEATTLE (CN) – Seattle has joined more than 1,000 other U.S. cities in banning smoking in public parks, but in keeping with the city’s laid-back attitude, smokers will not be fined – just given a lecture.
The Seattle Board of Parks Commissioners on Thursday amended the parks smoking policy, which prohibited smoking within 25 feet of another person, on penalty of a $27 fine.
Now smoking and chewing tobacco will be banned, but electronic cigarettes and vape pens will be allowed.
Recreational marijuana use, which is legal in Washington, is already banned in public places.
Cigarette smokers will not be fined, but educated by police and park rangers, who will “provide suggestions on where people can smoke,” according to a Parks and Recreation memo.
A second offense will bring a verbal warning, and a third a written trespass warning.
Offender will also be given a resource card with a phone number to call for information on quitting smoking and resources for local support groups.
The parks memo includes an example of an “intervention” between a park ranger and a smoker.
“You might not be aware, but all Seattle parks are now smoke-free. So I’m going to have to ask you to put your cigarette out and dispose of it safely in the trash can. Or, if you would like to continue smoking, please do so outside the park. Thank you for your understanding. (While offering to hand the resource card) If you are interested, we have a resource card with information about the policy and resources for help in quitting tobacco. There are a lot of free resources available.”
Mayor Ed Murray proposed the ban.
“We know the dangers of secondhand smoke, particularly for those with asthma and allergies, and we know that cigarette litter is abundant and harmful to our environment, especially for the wildlife that inhabit it,” Murray said in a statement. “Waste from cigarettes leach arsenic, cadmium, lead and other toxins into our soil and water streams and damage ecosystems. This ban just makes sense for our community.”
The ban specifically excluded electronic cigarettes because they supposedly help people quit smoking.
The fine was dropped after complaints from homeless advocates.
“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,” Acting Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent Christopher Williams said in a statement.
The smoking ban takes effect June 28.
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