Smoking ban in city parks is overdue

Staff file, 2015

Nothing taints a pleasing stroll through a public park like the smoke off a fresh-lit cigarette. That is why we welcome a move by the city of Olympia to bar smoking tobacco or vaping in public parks, starting in 2018. Smoking is a filthy habit at best.

Certainly playground areas with children are the biggest concern. Parents taking their children out for a bit of fresh air in the local park should not have to contend with secondhand smoke.

The hassle factor figures in too. A parent with kids, elderly persons and those with respiratory ailments should not have to get into a discussion every time some nicotine addict lights up in their vicinity.

One smoker along a row of park benches spoils it for others who don’t smoke.

The new ordinance adopted last week by the Olympia City Council won’t lead to citations, penalties or banishment from parks — at this point. But it goes further than a council resolution from 2003 that simply encouraged people not to smoke around park playgrounds.

The ordinance takes effect in 2018. This gives the city time to explain the new rule and why vaping — the less intrusive and potentially less dangerous form of smoking — is included in the city’s ban. Marijuana use in public is already illegal under state law.

After Washington voters approved a statewide ban on indoor smoking at all workplaces in 2005, there was an adjustment period as the public and smokers got used to its provisions in restaurants and bars. If there’s been a problem with the voter approved ban it’s that smokers at some establishments still huddle too close to building entrances.

The health threat of smoke is not as clear-cut in parks, because most smoke clears more quickly outdoors. But the change should not be as hard to accept — given that a growing presumption in our communities is that people ought to be able to avoid secondhand smoke.

Regionally, the cities of Seattle, Tacoma, Gig Harbor, Puyallup and Fife have already banned smoking in parks, and even rural Mason County took that step. Tumwater adopted a ban that relies on voluntary compliance. We haven’t heard complaints that these bans were unworkable or particularly burdensome.

One omission in the Olympia rule was not declaring the public library’s outdoor area as off-limits. Visitors to the library sometimes hold their breath when approaching the front door, especially along the sidewalk leading to the main door.

But why should they have to?

Similarly, state-owned parks near downtown Olympia do not ban smoking. That decision — or whether to designate areas for smoking — is up to the state Department of Enterprise Services, which oversees the Capitol Campus, including its downtown parks .

A smoke-free world ought to be worth considering.