Yesterday’s story detailing a Tacoma City Council proposal that would outlaw smoking in the city’s public parks drew a big response from readers, many of whom left comments criticizing the plan.
Among other things, opponents say such a ban tramples people’s rights and is generally unnecessary.
But the proposal before the Tacoma council — expected to considered at the Oct. 13 council meeting — is far from original: Prohibitions against smoking in public parks are on the books in more than 400 municipalities nationwide, according to the American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation. And several other local jurisdictions are now considering it, including Seattle.
Today, Puyallup’s parks and recreation director Ralph Dannenberg called to explain that a similar park smoking prohibition passed in his city has led to few problems.
“We’ve never issued a citation,” Dannenberg said. “The peer pressure is the greatest thing we have going for us.”
Punishments imposed for Puyallup’s ordinance, which passed in September 2005, seem severe compared to similar measures adopted elsewhere: Violators there face up to a $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail. By comparision, the Tacoma measure proposes a $25 fine, though police here say they’d like only warn offenders.
Dannenberg, like supporters of the measure in Tacoma, say the ban is about public awareness, not punishment. He points out that his city’s law specifically states that police must “make a good faith effort to warn persons” in violation of the ordinance before citing them.
“There would never be a $1,000 fine,” Dannenberg said.
Since the measure was enacted in Puyallup, Dannenberg added, there’s been little controversy.
“For about the first two weeks after we passed it, we got a lot of negative calls,” he said. “But in the last three or four years, we haven’t heard much of anything.”
The measure has greatly reduced smoking — and trash — during adult softball games that take place in city-owned ballparks, Dannenberg added.
“We don’t have the litter from the butts anymore,” he said. “For a while, sunflower seeds replaced them, but even those are gone now, too.”