At a news conference on April 29, Mayor Michael A. Nutter signed an executive order extending smoke-free rules to all City parks, comprising over 11,000 acres of public space. The policy goes into effect immediately.
“This policy builds on a long history of promoting smoke-free spaces in Philadelphia,” said Mayor Nutter. “Smoke-free policies are good for the environment and good for public health.”
In the 1940s, smoking was prohibited in local public transit vehicles. In 2006, the Clean Indoor Air Worker Protection Law made all workplaces, bars, and restaurants smoke-free. And in 2011, a Mayoral executive order extended smoke-free rules to all City recreation centers, playgrounds, and pools.
“Cigarette butts are the most polluted item in world,” noted Michael DiBerardinis, Deputy Mayor for Environmental and Community Resources. “They can take years to bio-degrade and expose our soil, wildlife, and waterways to harmful chemicals. Our parks deserve protection.”
A recent City assessment demonstrated that cigarette butts, tobacco packaging, and matchbooks accounted for over 90% of littered items at 3 parks. Full results will be available later this year, and a follow-up assessment will be conducted next year.
The smoke-free policy will apply to all City parks, including over 100 neighborhood parks and watershed parks like Fairmount Park, Pennypack Park, and the Wissahickon Valley.
“Parks are vital natural resources,” said Lauren Bornfriend, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Parks Alliance. “This policy will keep them clean, healthy, and safe.”
Philadelphia joins other large cities, including Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta, in implementing a smoke-free policy for parks.
Enforcement will occur through staff, patron, and community education, rather than ticketing. The Philadelphia Departments of Parks & Recreation (PPR) and Public Health (PDPH) will lead these educational efforts, including a recently launched media campaign featuring the benefits of smoke-free parks. The campaign’s tag line is, “No butts about it,” and ads will appear on radio and public transit.
Over the past several years, Philadelphia has a seen a 15% reduction in adult smoking and 10% decline in youth smoking due to aggressive anti-smoking efforts.
“Smoke-free policies protect children and families from the harms of secondhand smoke,” commented Dr. Donald Schwarz, Philadelphia Health Commissioner. “They also provide smokers with additional motivation to quit.”
Philadelphians can receive free counseling and up to 8 weeks of nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges by calling 1-800-QUIT NOW. For more information about e-cigarettes or quitting smoking, visit www.smokefreephilly.org.
For more information, take a look at the Smoke-free parks FAQ.