It marks the first time that the city has required any outdoor areas to be smokefree. (The Council has passed legislation permitting business owners to post no-smoking signs in front of their doors, but that is voluntary. And the city’s smokefree workplace law addresses indoor areas only.)
The measure passed today applies to all city parks, dog parks, trails, community facilities, playgrounds, swimming pools, spray parks, neighborhood recreation centers and other similar facilities owned or maintained by the District.
(Now it will be possible to sit on the porch at Hains Point on a summer evening without sucking in cigar and cigarette smoke from patrons. But we digress.)
The measure, which the Council approved unanimously on second reading (Bill 20-0095), was amended to remove criminal penalties and to clarify that the businesses that are now exempt from the smokefree law (such as cigar bars), would not be affected. (The committee-approved version is here. This doesn’t reflect the amendments approved today.)
We must give a shout-out of appreciation to Councilmember David Grosso (D-At-Large), who objected to the removal of criminal sanctions. “I think there should be stiff penalities,” he said. “Secondhand smoke is serious.”
The bill was originally introduced by Councilmember Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) as a smokefree playgrounds bill. Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), who chairs the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, strengthened it. Kudos to them both.
It is telling that this measure was noncontroversial. We remember the reaction in 2002 to the proposal that bars – gasp! – be made smokefree. One would have thought that the world was going to end.
But people are much more aware now of the health hazards of secondhand smoke, and non-smokers are increasingly standing up for their right to breathe clean air.
The only catch is that many of the parks in D.C. are under federal control, so this measure doesn’t apply. D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton has asked the National Park Service to make federal parks in the city smokefree. No word on that yet.
The bill now goes to the mayor for his signature (he has been a consistent supporter of smokefree policies, so we expect no problem there), then on to Congress for a 30-day review period.