Mayor Michael Nutter signed an executive order Tuesday to ban smoking in Philadelphia's park system. The ban applies to all 11,000 acres of public parks in the city.
In addition to keeping the parks cleaner and ending the problem of secondhand smoke, Nutter said, the order is an incentive for Philadelphians to quit smoking.
"Over the last four years, we have seen a 15 percent reduction in smoking in adults and 10 percent in among youth through the efforts of the Philadelphia Health Department's 'Get Healthy Philly' initiative," he said. "The smoke-free parks policy will further these gains, protect our vital natural resources and provide safe, clean, healthy places for Philadelphians to spend their time outdoors."
The city's recreation centers, playgrounds and pools were declared smoke free with a similar executive order in 2011. And that's worked out well, said Deputy Mayor of Parks and Recreation Mike DiBerardinis.
"Although we don't have 100 percent compliance, we have broad and strong compliance across our system and we believe it has significantly impacted smoking at our recreation facilities," he said.
Not everyone likes the ban. Philadelphia Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky, a smoker, said he wonders if this is the beginning of the end for lighting up in public, even though the mayor told him no such ban was even being contemplated.
"I think, eventually, all the cigarette smokers will be rounded up and forced into one ghetto in a part of the city where they will be allowed to smoke and they will not be allowed to smoke in their own homes," Bykofsky said. "I see that coming."
Because the ban is an executive order, not an ordinance, smokers can't be fined when caught puffing in a park. But Nutter said he thinks most people will comply when told of the new policy.