Greenbelt bans smoking near public parks
City law bars smoking within 25 feet of entrance; public buildings ban could follow
The Greenbelt City Council voted Monday to expand the city's ban on smoking inside recreational facilities like the city's swimming pool and dog park, and a ban on smoking near all public buildings might not be far behind.
Council members voted 7-0 to outlaw smoking within 25-feet of entrances to all city recreation facilities, including the pool, dog park and tennis courts. An existing law already prohibited smoking inside the facilities.
The ban also outlaws smoking within 25 feet of non-enclosed play areas like ball fields, playgrounds and outdoor basketball courts. The 25-foot distance was based in part on research indicating secondhand smoke can affect people within a 23-foot radius, according to the city's Park and Recreation Advisory Board.
"It's so important to promote good health," said Councilman Emmett Jordan. "It just makes sense. Secondhand smoke is a terrible thing."
City officials said they patterned the ban after laws in Anne Arundel County, where a 2003 law banned smoking within 100 yards of public parks and fields, and Rockville, where city officials banned smoking within 40 feet of playgrounds in 2009.
First-time violations in Greenbelt would be punishable by a $50 fine, followed by $100 for a second offense and $250 for further violations. While the law is effective immediately, Greenbelt officials are unsure how they will enforce it, as some expressed concern that devoting city police officers to the task could distract them from more serious crimes in areas like the Franklin Park apartment complex, which has long suffered with incidents of violent crimes and arsons.
"I don't like our officers having to go around and enforce [the smoking ban]," said Councilman Edward Putens. "With the kinds of things that are going on in Greenbelt East and over in Franklin Park, their time needs not to be wasted."
City Manager Michael McLaughlin said the city could use police or code enforcement officers to monitor parks, and plans to place no-smoking signs and cigarette butt receptacles near parks. He said the signs, receptacles and regular enforcement will not be in place for at least a couple of months.
"There would have to be an education process, and perhaps a tactful warning," said Mayor Judith Davis. "A lot of people are used to being able to smoke outside."
The City Council is also intent on a future ban that could outlaw smoking within 25 feet of all of the city's public buildings, as suggested Monday by Councilwoman Leta Mach. The policy would be identical to an existing state law for state-owned buildings, and the city could also outlaw smoking within entrances to all shops and restaurants at Greenbelt Center, after Councilman Rodney Roberts said some residents had complained to him about smoking in the area.
The Park and Recreation Advisory Board will research the feasibility of both proposals and likely draft an ordinance for council approval at a later date.