Norton Calls on NPS to Ban Smoking in D.C. NPS Parks

Photo by PoPville flickr user pablo.raw

From a press release:

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) wrote to National Park Service (NPS) Regional Director Steve Whitesell asking NPS to further its efforts to preserve and enhance parks by banning smoking in all NPS units, including parks, sites and trails, in the District of Columbia. Norton cited United States Department of Interior Director Order #50D that provides superintendents with the authority to ban smoking in NPS units.

“Many find smoking in parks to be incompatible with enjoying the fresh air and recreation afforded by our many parks here,” said Norton. “In a city with high rates of bronchitis and asthma, the parks ought to be a refuge from smoking.”

D.C. residents have been working with the D.C. Council on a bill, which is currently pending before the Council, to ban smoking in the city’s parks that are within 25 feet of a playground. However, NPS action is necessary because the majority of parks in the District are owned by NPS and a smoking ban in D.C. parks would have little effect in the District.

The full text of Norton’s letter follows.

June 13, 2013

Dear Regional Director Whitesell:

Thank you for your continuing and important work to preserve and enhance our parks in the National Capital Region. I write today to ask you to further this effort by banning smoking in all National Park Service (NPS) units in the District of Columbia.

This issue was brought to my attention by several constituents who have expressed concerns about smoking in NPS parks in D.C. I agree with their concern that residents and visitors should be able to enjoy our parks free of health risks, including second-hand smoke, which contributes to asthma, bronchitis, cancer and other severe health conditions. One should not go to an NPS park to enjoy the outdoors and find smoke instead of fresh air. Freedom from second-hand smoke in the outdoors is particularly important in big cities like D.C., where pollution and traffic congestion already contribute to health conditions similar to those caused by second-hand smoke. My constituents have been working with the District of Colombia Council on a bill to ban smoking in the city’s parks that are within 25 feet of a playground, and a bill to do so is currently pending before the Council (Bill 20-93, the Prohibition of Smoking Near Playground Act of 2013). As you know, however, the majority of parks in my District are owned by NPS, and thus a smoking ban in D.C. parks would have limited effect here.

We have learned from NPS staff that NPS has the authority to implement the smoking ban we are requesting. Under U.S. Department of the Interior Director Order #50D, NPS superintendents have the authority to ban smoking in NPS parks to protect the public from environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) exposure, or second-hand smoke. The official order provides that “a site manager may, at any time, close an area or facility to smoking when necessary to (a) protect park resources, (2) reduce the risk of fire, (3) protect employees and the public from ETS exposure, or (d) prevent conflicts among visitor use activities.” The order also explains the harmful effects of second-hand smoke and notes the general NPS policy to “provide smoke-free environment[s].” Implementing this policy in our parks here is particularly important at a time when the D.C. population is growing by over 1,000 residents per month and when many of these residents are young parents with children. The well documented health risks associated with second-hand smoke converge with D.C.’s unfortunate number of smoking-related health risks and deaths. Our city has long benefited from our many NPS parks, and my constituents reap the benefits of­ the nature that NPS parks provide.

I ask that you ban smoking in all NPS park units in D.C. Thank you for your attention to this matter, and I ask for an early response.

21 Comment

  • Ridiculous.

  • I hate smoking. Hate hate hate hate it. I have asthma and a whole host of respiratory problems and I hate the smell.

    And yet…I don’t think I support this.

  • Scrillin

    Wait, so are they banning motorized vehicles, too?

    Cause I promise you the shit you breathe whilst running in Rock Creek Park is worse than the second-hand smoke from some dude smoking a pipe on the bench.

    Of course, we don’t evaluate the impact of exhaust on the respiratory system in the same way as tobacco, because Michigan.

  • I am all for it, but I have a hard time believing it would be enforceable with the amount of tourists we have here. You would have to post signs everywhere and I still doubt people would obey them.

  • In advance of legal pot, sure.

  • i hate smoking as much as the next person, but is this really a problem?
    i could see banning it in Carter Barron or in the stands at a tennis match, but everywhere?

  • This is a bad idea. The park service doesn’t have enough resources to keep the parks open and clean. How are they going to enforce this? I agree with prior comments on maybe implementing it for crowd events at Carter Barron, ect;

  • Allison

    I’m not a smoker, and cigarette smoke gives me an instant headache/nausea, but even I think this is a little bit much. I think an outdoor smoking ban is appropriate at outdoor events (for example, if I”m at an outdoor concert, I don’t think they should allow smoking by anyone in the audience because we’re in close quarters.) But, just a general one? Even I don’t agree.

  • Totally support this, plus it’s fun to watch entitled smokers whine like a smacked baby that they have to indulge their filthy habit at home.

  • Nothing is sadder than seeing another Eleanor Holmes-Norton press release trying to make her seem relevant. Remind me again what she does to earn her salary?

    • I object because rules that are ridiculously UN-enforceable like this would be give too much arbitrary power to the police. This would allow a bad cop the power to arrest the gay/Asian/black/young/old/stinky/etc. person s/he just wants to mess with. And I’m NOT saying all cops are this way. But I have personally experienced bad cops arresting or threatening to arrest people they just didn’t like.

    • Are you literally asking, on the Internet, for someone to do research for you and explain to you what your elected representative does or is this just pointless sarcasm?

  • I totally support this. They have been doing this in new York and although I usually see the police ignoring any enforcement it does attempt to draw an start a more considerate behavior pattern regarding smoking. In NY, when enforced, they first inform you of the law, and then ask you to put it out. They will only give you a ticket if you refuse to put it out. The idea is more about large public use spaces that should have some protection. People with young children, and anyone else, should feel like they can be safe in certain public areas, parks or touristy places.

  • Even if this doesn’t fly, I’d like to see smokers who toss their butts on the ground fined. I just don’t get why so many smokers think that form of littering is no problem.

  • It’s really a shame that Delegate Norton cannot focus her energy on more pertinent issues. She has been an abject failure in terms of moving the voting representation cause forward, except where the issue may seem to have some benefit for herself.

    • Unless you can prove that Norton isn’t also focusing on pertinent issues, isn’t your post pointless?

      Not moving a congressional vote for District residents forward isn’t analogous to not doing anything at all, you know…

  • Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton is totally blowing smoke on this issue.

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