By early May, Minneapolis residents and visitors will enjoy completely tobacco-free city parks, recreation facilities and buildings.

The Park Board voted unanimously Wednesday to forbid the use of all tobacco products at parks and park facilities. Officials said that the stringent smoke-free rules are an effort to curb smoking and promote healthy living, rather than a punitive act against smokers.

The new policy covers a wide range of tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes and chewing tobacco. The only exception allows tobacco use for traditional American Indian practices.

The Park Board passed a similar policy in 2009 but focused only on playgrounds, athletic fields and buildings.

According to a recent survey conducted by the Minneapolis Healthier Parks Initiative, 67 percent of city residents have been exposed to secondhand smoke in Minneapolis parks.

"This 100 percent tobacco-free policy will protect a lot of people from secondhand exposure," said LaTrisha Vetaw, health policy and advocacy manager at Northpoint Health and Wellness Center in Minneapolis, who lobbied for the policy.

The Park Board will update park signage to alert smokers and educate the public that tobacco use is prohibited.

Faiza Mahamud