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Seattle Wants To Ban Smoking In Parks; ACLU Opposes Move

Frank Franklin II
Associate Press


The City of Seattle is preparing to recommend a smoking ban for its parks. If approved by the Superintendent of Parks, smokers must cease lighting up in the city's more than 400 parks and open spaces by the end of June.

Seattle would join a growing list of other cities that don’t allow smoking in parks, including Portland, San Francisco and New York. But not everyone agrees the ban is needed.


in a letter to the city, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington State argued that the proposal is both redundant and disproportionately affects the poor and homeless. The current law that restricts smoking within 25 feet of another person is sufficient, said Doug Honig, a spokesman for the ACLU.


Moreover, he said, the smoking ban would punish the homeless.


“What we think would happen in practice is this would get disproportionately enforced against people who are vulnerable populations and potentially they can be banned from parks which are an important place for them to spend time or even arrested,” said Honig.


Vaporizer pens and e-cigarettes would not be banned.


The Parks Department says it expects most violations would happen in the downtown core which includes Westlake Park and Victor Steinbruek Park. These parks are also places where large numbers of homeless men and women spend the day.

Along with cutting down on second hand smoke, the city’s Parks and Recreations Department says outlawing tobacco would also reduce maintenance costs. According to the Washington State Department of Ecology, every year in Washington 480-million cigarette butts are tossed on the ground.  

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.