Fort Worth

Fort Worth City Council Bans Smoking in Public Parks

Just six months ago, smokers had a lot of options for where they could light up in Fort Worth. But earlier this year, a smoking ban took effect in bars and restaurants and on Tuesday night city council took it a step further, outlawing smoking in public parks.

City leaders said public sentiment about second-hand smoke has finally caught up and now they want to be sure they’re protecting not just indoor spaces, but areas where children play, like park playgrounds and baseball fields.

But city leaders admit they don't plan to enforce the new ordinance aggressively. You won't see patrols in parks looking for people lighting up.

What they do hope happens is a public pressure campaign where everyone knows the rules and people stop each other from smoking in the crowded areas of public parks where the risk of second-hand smoke is higher.

"We come out here and have fun, have a good time, play some ball. A little bit of competition," said softball player Cameron Hines.

The Lone Star Sports and Social Club at Gateway Park in East Fort Worth is an all adult-league where adult beverages and the occasional cigarette are not uncommon.

"If it's not around children, or around people that don't mind it, I think it's our right to be able to do what we want outside," said smoker Christina Martin.

But starting in 90 days, people like Martin could get a citation for lighting up in any public park in Fort Worth.

"That's outrageous,” Martin said. “It makes me uncomfortable actually."

City Council voted unanimously in favor of the ban Tuesday night, though the city’s Code Compliance Director Brandon Bennett admits: "We don't envision there will be a lot of enforcement that takes place."

The city wanted to set a baseline policy, hoping citizens will help enforce it by telling smokers to cut it out.

"Ninety-nine times out of 100 that smoker is going to simply go and smoke their cigarette at some other place,” Bennett said. “That one time out of 100, it can be enforced by code compliance, the police department."

In those cases, smokers would get a fine of something less than $500 that they could challenge in court.

"I mean could you imagine if we were just sitting here and someone was smoking right there, it would kind of stress you out a bit," Mackenzie Murray said to her friend Ana-Alyce Moore, back in the Gateway Park softball stands.

Both girls grew up with dads who smoked.

"I saw the effects drawn out,” Moore said. “He had a heart attack and he's still addicted to smoking."

Now they're all for keeping second-hand smoke away from crowds, especially where kids hang out.

"It's just gross it gets on your clothes, it's bad for you," Murray said. "I say do it and I think it would be a good change."

The city plans a public education campaign about the new rules over the next three months. After then, you can call the city to report it if you see someone smoking in a park.

There will be exceptions for golf courses and special events like concerts in the park, where there will be designated smoking areas set up.

Bennett says the city has not issued a single citation since the new ban on smoking in bars and restaurants took effect in March.

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