King County could outlaw smoking in public park areas
April 17, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
King County could join almost 600 local governments across the United States in creating no-smoking zones in county parks.
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, just like 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,” County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement issued April 12.
The county could join New York City, Los Angeles County, and other local governments large and small, in limiting tobacco use in public parks.
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. Officials said tobacco use is not prevalent in most city parks, although the skate park near Issaquah Middle School — a magnet for teenagers’ illegal activities — is the exception.
In Sammamish, the municipal Parks and Recreation Commission recommended a smoking ban for city parks, but the City Council decided last month not to act on the proposal.
The county park system includes the 3,115-acre Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, Grand Ridge Park and Duthie Hill Park in the Issaquah area.
Statewide, more than 45 cities in 15 counties put smoke-free parks policies in place.
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.
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.