The smoking ban in all public parks in Seattle began Monday, but its enforcement may take time.
The first day of the smoking ban in Seattle public parks was much like any other: People continued to light up at Victor Steinbrueck Park near Pike Place Market, ignoring the sign asking them not to.
Some didn’t know the ban had taken effect Monday. Others were skeptical of its effectiveness.
“It’ll work for a minute, but it’s not going to keep the smokers out,” said Sly Sahme, 49, who was sitting in Steinbrueck Park and smokes occasionally.
Smoking is officially forbidden now in Seattle’s parks, though enforcement may take time and the consequences are hardly more than a slap on the wrist.
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About seven or eight park rangers — as well as police officers — are tasked with enforcing the ban. The park rangers focus on downtown parks and Cal Anderson Park in Capitol Hill for budgetary reasons. They patrol there daily, but because of the parks’ size, it could take a while for them to see smokers and explain the rules, said Seattle Parks and Recreation spokesman David Takami.
Smokers could get reminders, verbal warnings or written trespass warnings — all without fines or tickets. The point is to remind the public about the ban and educate people on health risks due to smoking, Takami said.
The Seattle Board of Park Commissioners approved the ban in May, a proposal spearheaded by the mayor’s administration to expand limitations restricting smoking, chewing and other tobacco within 25 feet of park visitors.
The ban follows similar efforts in other cities, including New York, Boston and Chicago, though smoking bans in those cities include fines for violations. The parks department decided not to implement fines after organizations said the ban would disproportionately target the homeless.
Aaron Coito, 33, said that even though he doesn’t smoke often, he’s against the ban and considers it government overstepping.
“We’re getting into a little bit of Seattle nanny society,” he said, while on a bench in Denny Park.
Denise Gillman, 50, of Seattle, said she’s allergic to cigarette smoke — one puff in her face can end in a trip to the hospital. She said she thinks the ban will be a good thing, as long as people cooperate.
The department expects most people to follow the rule with reminders or verbal warnings, but in the extremely rare case of two written warnings, an arrest could result, Takami said. When the ban was being considered in April, there had been no written smoking citations under the 2010 rule.
Kyle Hanson, 24, of Tacoma, smoked a cigarette near the Westlake Park fountain Monday. He said that in grassy parks — perfect for “sitting in the shade, enjoying a cigarette” — he’d like designated smoking sections.
Randy Andrews, 52, hadn’t been at Steinbrueck Park for very long Monday, but hadn’t yet seen any enforcement of the smoking ban. He smokes, and has been coming to the park for decades.
“Where am I going to smoke now — shoot,” Andrews said. “That’s a good question.”