NEWS Houston expands smoking ban to include parks and libraries

The City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department (HPARD)  and Houston Public Library (HPL) have announced plans to ban smoking and tobacco products at all of their properties. The new policy is an expansion of Ordinance #2006-1054 Sec. 21-243, which was passed on Oct 18, 2006, and will apply to both interior and exterior spaces. The move mirrors action taken years ago for properties managed by the Houston Department of Health and Human Services.

“This decision is based on a desire to protect the health of our residents,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “Millions of Houstonians, many of them children, utilize our City parks and libraries. They deserve to be able to play and learn without being exposed to harmful secondhand smoke. Likewise, City employees at these facilities also deserve healthy work environments.”

Existing City law bans smoking within 25 feet of a public facility, places of employment, bars and restaurants and at outdoor sports arenas and stadiums. The ordinance grants owners, operators and managers the authority to extend the existing regulations to any area of their properties. 

More than 900 municipal parks system are currently smoke-free. However, HPL is believed to be among the first large library systems in the country to implement this type of policy.

“The Houston Public Library serves more than four million people each year, with approximately 40 percent of our daily programs targeted to children or families with children,” said HPL Director Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson. “We want the residents of our city to think of each library location as a safe, healthy, family-friendly and welcoming environment. These no smoking zones will help us meet this goal.”

“The smoking ban will improve the beauty of our outdoor space, as well as reduce environmental pollution and litter in our Parks,” said Joe Turner, Director of the City’s Houston Parks and Recreation Department. “A smoke free park system will assist the department in keeping our recreation areas and natural spaces clean, healthy, and safe for all to enjoy.”

The new policy will take effect at HPL’s downtown properties starting today. All other libraries and parks facilities will become smoke and tobacco product-free the day after Labor Day. There will be signage posted at each property notifying users of the ban.  Enforcement will be administered by staff and, if needed, Houston police. The goal is to obtain compliance through education and warnings. Customers who refuse to comply will be asked to leave and, ultimately, may face the possibility of a municipal citation with a fine not to exceed $2,000.

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