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Smoking To Be Banned In Houston Parks

Ban will also extend to city library properties.



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Houston joins 967 cities nationwide and several smaller towns in the Greater Houston area that have banned smoking in city-owned parks.

The ban will also extend to city libraries. Smoking is already prohibited inside Houston libraries, but now their parking lots and the plaza outside the downtown library, for example, will also be included.

Members of the Houston City Council’s Quality of Life Committee were briefed by three different city departments.

Faith Foreman, assistant director of the Houston Department of Health and Human Services, explained some of the benefits they expect to see from the ban.

“Exposure to second-hand smoke is unhealthy – even outdoors,” she said. “There is no risk-free level of exposure to second-hand smoke. Tobacco-free parks mean less litter and less chance of fires. In fact, cigarettes are the most littered item in a park and they take about 15 years to decompose.”

The idea for the ban came from the Healthy Houston Taskforce, a group of Houstonians who promote a healthy lifestyle. The new rules expand upon a 2006 no-smoking ordinance for enclosed public and work places.

The rule change is not subject to a city council vote because it only affects city property.

We visited a few city parks to see what smokers thought of the new ban.

Stevie Ray and some friends were sitting at a table in Sam Houston Park downtown; a pouch of tobacco was sitting in front of them.

“I think you should be able to smoke in parks,” Ray said, “just so long as you don’t litter, and I think it’s disrespectful to smoke in front of kids and people that don’t smoke.”

Gara Williams from Tomball said she is a non-smoker, but she was a little torn about the new prohibition.

“Personally, I would like it but I know it would be a struggle for other people, because I have friends that do smoke.”

Rhea Lawson, director of the Houston Public Library, said her staff will enforce the ban like any other library rule.

The city will start putting up “no smoking” signs in parks by early next month and the ban will officially go into effect on Sep. 2.  

The downtown library will start enforcing its ban even sooner. Smoking on that property will be prohibited starting on Thursday.

Houston library director Rhea Lawson and parks director Joe Turner brief committee members on the new smoking ban.