Park District bans smoking at parks

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Chicagoans won’t be able to light a cigarette, or use a vaporizer at the city’s 580 parks under a ban approved Wednesday by the Chicago Park District.

But despite the new resolution, thousands of Chicagoans attending Riot Fest in Humboldt Park this weekend will not be ticketed, according to Park District Supt. Mike Kelly.

“People at Riot Fest this weekend, they don’t need to worry about…a man tapping on their shoulder and saying, ‘You’re under arrest,’” Kelly said. “That’s not the point of this. It’s about awareness. It’s about people taking the dangers of smoking seriously and making their own choices.”

Kelly said the decision to ban smoking in parks was the right thing to do to protect the health of people in the park, especially children. The city already bans smoking at beaches and within 15-feet of field houses and playgrounds.

Hundreds took to Twitter to joke about the ban. One user tweeted “Ineffective immediately.”

But Kelly said the ban is not about chasing after and fining smokers. It’s a health initiative.

“Meet somebody who suffers from lung disease, and is a chronic smoker, the joke sort of ends there,” Kelly said.

The ban includes all public parks, including large parks that host festivals like Lollapalooza and the Pitchfork festival. But Kelly said he doesn’t anticipate ticketing to happen at those large festivals.

“I don’t see in the foreseeable future police with a ticketbook at Lollapalooza walking around, writing tickets. That’s not what this is about,” Kelly said.

After a nearly year long effort by health organizations like the Respiratory Health Association and the American Lung Association, the ban was adopted by the city’s board of commissioners, effective immediately.

The ban includes cigarettes, e-cigarettes, tobacco and marijuana. It also includes medical marijuana. Prior to the adoption of the resolution, Mike Kolleng of the American Lung Association showed board members tubes of cigarette butts and packages collected at 10 of the city’s parks. A team collected litter for about 30 minutes, and also handed out surveys.

He said 61 percent of people surveyed, out of a total 106 surveys, said they’d support a smoking ban.

Joel Africk, president of the Respiratory Health Association, said his organization will help the city come up with plans for enforcement, but the ban is meant to be “self-enforced,” meaning it’s intended to encourage smokers not to light up at parks and beaches.

Timothy King, Chicago Park District First Deputy General Counsel said those ticketed could be fined a whopping $500 by Chicago Police. He called that ticketing unlikely and said the ban is not about revenue.

King also said the ban is expected to be “self-policed” with signs listed at parks.

“Much like curbing your dog, the monitoring of this is self-policing,” King said. “You can’t really put a price on that father of three kids under five who’s on a playground with someone lighting up a cigarette.”

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