By Claudia Vargas
Just in time for spring picnics and outdoor recreational sports leagues, Mayor Nutter signed an executive order Tuesday immediately banning smoking of tobacco in city parks.
The order, which does not carry any penalties or fines, is an extension of the city's Clean Indoor Air Worker Protection Act, which prohibits smoking in workplaces, restaurants, and bars. It is similar to a 2011 executive order that made recreation centers, pools, and playgrounds smoke-free.
Those policies, Nutter said, have helped reduce the number of smokers in the city by 42,000 since 2010.
"Smoke-free park policy furthers these gains, protects our natural resources, and provides safe, clean, healthy places for Philadelphians to spend their time outdoors," Nutter said Tuesday at a news conference before signing the order.
Philadelphia joins other major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta that have smoke-free public parks.
As with all mayoral executive orders, the next mayor could get rid of the policy.
Asked if he planned to work with City Council to put a permanent ban on smoking in parks, Nutter said he had not had any conversations with Council on such a move. His deputy mayor for health and opportunity, Donald F. Schwarz, said there had been some staff-to-staff discussion of the topic.
This month, Council passed and Nutter signed two bills that prohibit sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and ban "vaping" in Philadelphia workplaces, bars, restaurants, and other public spaces. The laws also apply to other electronic smoking devices such as e-hookahs and e-cigars.
Nutter said the parks policy would help protect the environment, reduce secondhand smoke, and motivate smokers to quit.
"It's more about public information, public education, letting people know what the new standards are," he said. "You usually find high levels of compliance."
Along with signs being posted throughout the city's 11,000 acres of parks alerting people of smoke-free zones, staff will also be out alerting people to the new rule.
Employees won't necessarily be on the Wissahickon trails patrolling for smokers, said Mike DiBerardinis, deputy mayor for environmental and community resources.
"What we do know is what we see," DiBerardinis said. He said smokers are more often seen "in our neighborhood parks and in picnic areas, and where people tend to congregate and play sports."
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