The Bremerton Parks and Recreation Commission voted Tuesday night to institute a voluntary smoking ban in all city parks.
The commission will re-visit the smoking ban again next month to hammer out the details of what exactly that ban entails. The tentative plan is to put up no-smoking signs in parks, but the commissioners have not yet agreed if the ultimate goal is to keep smoke away from play structures, restrooms and shelters or to prohibit smoking entirely.
Citing the difficulties associated with enforcement, along with the time and costs involved in re-writing city ordinances, the parks commission opted not to seek a change in city law to make smoking illegal in parks. Parks Director Wyn Birkenthal said the voluntary ban could be just as effective as a new ordinace by means of signage and “peer pressure” from non-smoking parks users discouraging smokers from lighting up.
Birkenthal also said that under the voluntary smoking ban approach, a person smoking in a city park could be “ejected” or kicked out of the park if he or she refused to extinguish a cigarette. Birkenthal said he would verify that possibility with the city attorney prior to next month’s parks commission meeting.
Prior to adopting the voluntary smoking ban, parks commissioner Bob Dollar had proposed banning all smoking, at all city parks, all of the time, but his motion died for lack of a second. Dollar went on to vote against the voluntary ban.
Danielle Schaeffner from the Kitsap Public Health District also encouraged the parks commission to make smoking and tobacco use illegal in city parks. She said tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and public parks should be in the business of promoting life. She also said that Bremerton wouldn’t be breaking new ground by outlawing tobacco use in parks because cities all across the country have already done so.
In that vein, Birkenthal told the parks commission that the city of Tacoma has a solid ordinance in place that prohibits smoking in all parks. He also noted that the city of Spokane at one point made smoking in parks illegal, but reversed its decision about one year later.