Smoking, including taking puffs of electronic cigarettes, could be banned at all Minneapolis city parks by the end of the summer.
Spurred by complaints from park users, Park and Recreation Board commissioners John Erwin and Jon Olson proposed the ban. Violators could be hit with a $50 fine.
Since 2010, people have not been allowed to smoke tobacco products within 100 feet of park buildings, playgrounds, pools and water play areas, beaches, in park buildings and in park vehicles. But Erwin and Olson want it to be park-wide.
“Four years ago, we were a little concerned if we were overreaching in an outdoor area, but as a park system we hope to be a leader for issues of health and provide a healthy place to go,” Erwin said. “We feel that smoking is not consistent with that.”
The ban on e-cigarettes would be what’s believed to be the first public ban in the state. Elsewhere, efforts to treat e-cigarettes like regular cigarettes and curb their use in public places have mostly failed.
The battery-operated thin, cylindrical devices heat a liquid nicotine solution. Users inhale a vapor but they don’t emit the chemicals, tar or odor of regular cigarettes.
Erwin said they included e-cigarettes in the proposed ban because “no one really knows what’s in them.”
But Cap O’Rourke, who represents dozens of e-cigarette sellers for the Independent Vapor Retailers of Minnesota, said his group plans to fight the proposal.
“There is no evidence that they would be harmful in any way outside,” he said. “Not even the state Legislature was for banning these products outside,”
O’Rourke said the vendors he represents label all the ingredients on their e-cigarettes.
“People who say that they don’t know what’s in them, don’t want to know what’s in them,” he said.
Erwin wants the ban to be an ordinance, and not just a policy, which would allow the Park Board Police to issue a $50 fine to violators. If the ban is simply a policy, the Park Board could not issue any fines.
“We may decide to go with a policy, unless we see that we need to have enforcement,” he said. “People have typically abided by the current policy really well.
The Park Board ban would also include “vaping” of medical marijuana, which was already banned in public by the Legislature.
The bill passed Thursday will allow those with a medical need for marijuana to have access to it in a pill, liquid or vapor form.
The first public discussion of the proposed Park Board ban is scheduled for June 4, in front of the Recreation Committee. If passed, the board would then vote on the proposal on June 18.