Smokers and vapers can puff away in Richland parks without restriction after the city council rejected a proposal to ban smoking at the HAPO Community Stage, near playgrounds and in other high-use spots.
Council members called the proposal from the Richland Parks and Recreation Commission a case of “government overreach” and a prohibition against a legal activity. The council voted unanimously this week to send the partial smoking ban back for modifications.
“The last thing we want is more government intrusion into our lives,” said Terry Christensen, Richland’s mayor pro-tem.
The last thing we want is more government intrusion into our lives.
Terry Christensen, Richland mayor pro-tem.
Councilman Brad Anderson, a nonsmoker, said the list of spots where smoking would be prohibited was too long and amounted to “government overreach.”
“Cigarettes and vaping are legal,” he said.
Anderson said he would support a limited ban in areas where people congregate heavily, but said he trusts people to be considerate of their neighbors.
“You have a right to do certain things,” he said.
While the council agreed some restrictions make sense in congested areas and spots used by children, it felt the proposed no-smoking zones went too far by including beaches and city-owned docks and marinas.
Proposed Richland ordinance would ban smoking:
- HAPO Community stage spectator seating
- Within 25 feet of city-owned playgrounds
- Any city-owned dock or marina
- Groomed beaches
- Aquatic facilities
- On or within 25 feet of bleacher seating at city-owned athletic facilities
Pasco and Kennewick both ban smoking in some areas of public parks.
Partial and full bans on smoking in public parks are common throughout Washington, said Mary McHale, Washington government relations director for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
McHale was startled to hear how Richland leaders described proposed limits on public smoking.
“That is completely shocking,” McHale said. “Governments across the state absolutely have an interest in protecting the public from the effects of secondhand smoke.”
Wesley Reed, a south Richland resident visiting Claybell Park with his young daughter Wednesday, agreed a partial ban makes sense. He’d want to limit smoking around playgrounds and child-friendly spots, but said more open areas should be unrestricted.
The parks commission took on the issue of smoking in parks after the HAPO Community Stage opened at John Dam Plaza earlier this year.
Joe Schiessl, the city’s parks and public facilities director, said the appointed commission initially wanted to prohibit smoking and vaping in the stage’s spectator area but expanded its review to include all city parks.
That is completely shocking. Governments across the state absolutely have an interest in protecting the public from the effects of secondhand smoke.
Mary McHale, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
It eventually proposed banning smoking within 25 feet of playgrounds and in certain other places, including the stage, pool, bleacher sections of city-owned athletic facilities, beaches and city-owned docks and marina.
The smoking ban would have chiefly relied on the honor system though violators could receive warnings for their first offense and citations of $100 for subsequent incidents.
The city of Pasco bans smoking in Peanuts Park in downtown and has an ordinance prohibiting smoking within 25 feet of picnic shelters, playgrounds and swimming pools.
Kennewick parks prohibit the use of tobacco products, a category that includes e-cigarettes, within 20 feet of playgrounds and tot-lots.
The American Cancer Society wants bans to go further.
“We would like to see 100 percent smoke-free public places including parks throughout our state,” McHale said.