D.C. Considers Banning Smoking Around Playgrounds

The District appears ready to take a first step in banning smoking in outdoor locations.

The D.C. Council heard testimony Monday supporting a new smoking ban within 25 feet of any city playground. It would be the first city legislation affecting smoking in places other than buildings and restaurants. Smoking already is banned in public buildings and schools.

The legislation, proposed by at-large Councilmember Vincent Orange and Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans would require prominently posted signs warning that smoking near the playgrounds is illegal. It’s unclear what, if any, civil penalties would be imposed. That still has to be worked out in the legislation that likely wouldn’t become law until late in the year.

Angela Bradbery, a founder and leader of SmokeFreeDC, testified she wants the city to go further than a 25-foot ban around playgrounds. She wants the city to ban smoking anywhere in city parks.

“Children don’t stay just within the boundaries of playgrounds when they are at play,” she testified. “They visit other areas of the parks, too.”

Bradbery, who helped pass the restaurant no-smoking law, said 44 states and more than 800 cities have made parks smoke free.  She said more than 58 cities in 20 states also ban smoking at zoos.

Ward 3 D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh, chairman of the council’s committee on the environment, said she supports the playground ban and is looking at expanding the legislation to cover parks. Other councilmembers are concerned that open air parks are among the few places people can smoke. No one testified against the legislation Monday.

A D.C. Department of Health spokesman said his agency supports the ban given new studies on secondhand smoke, and D.C. Recreation Director Jesus Aguirre said his department supports the ban with some revisions. He said the park ranger staff is not equipped to enforce the ban and is not legally permitted to write tickets or fines for violations.

The two bills under consideration are:

  • Bill 20-93, the Prohibition of Smoking Near Playground Act of 2013, would prohibit smoking within 25 feet of any playground.
  • Bill 20-95, the Smoking Restriction Amendment Act of 2013, would also prohibit smoking within 25 feet of a playground and would also require property owners to post four signs stating that this prohibition.

Follow Tom Sherwood on Twitter at @tomsherwood

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