King County could create no-smoking areas in parks

April 12, 2012

By Staff

NEW — 6 p.m. April 12, 2012

King County could join almost 600 local governments across the United States to create no-smoking zones in county parks.

The legislation before the County Council aims to prohibit tobacco use in parks’ busiest areas, such as athletics fields, picnic shelters, playgrounds and trailheads.

The proposal calls for voluntary compliance, so, as for littering, failing to keep a dog on a leash or using alcohol in a park, enforcement occurs only if a problem is reported. Officials plan to use a federal grant to pay for signs denoting tobacco-free areas.

“When people come to a public park, they expect to breathe fresh air — not someone else’s cigarettes,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement issued Thursday.

The county could join New York City, Los Angeles County, and other local governments large and small, to limit tobacco use in public parks.

“Our residents want healthy, tobacco-free parks,” said Councilman Joe McDermott, King County Board of Health chairman. “Tobacco use is still the leading cause of preventable death and illness in King County, and this ordinance would further expand our smoke-free spaces so children and families can be safe from second-hand smoke.”

So far in King County, 11 local governments prohibit or limit tobacco use in parks. The participating governments use a universal “tobacco-free parks” sign to alert parkgoers to the rule.

In Issaquah, smoking or use of tobacco products and controlled substances is prohibited on municipal athletic fields.

Statewide, more than 45 cities in 15 counties put smoke-free parks policies in place.

“The U.S. surgeon general has concluded that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke,” said Carrie Nyssen, regional director of advocacy for the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific. “Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can cause an asthma attack in a child, or increase risk of blot clots in healthy adults.”

In addition to the health risk, officials said cigarette butts can account for up to 70 percent of litter in public places. The discarded butts can take up to 15 years to decompose, leaching chemicals into the soil. The litter also poses harm to children and pets if ingested.

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