By September, all Houston parks and public library spaces will be completely smoke-free environments. The City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department and the Houston Public Library announced plans Wednesday to ban smoking and tobacco products at all of their properties, expanding the city's existing smoke-free ordinance.
"This decision is based on a desire to protect the health of our residents," Mayor Annise Parker said in a statement. "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."
"This decision is based on a desire to protect the health of our residents," Mayor Annise Parker said.
The existing law, passed in 2006, bans smoking within 25 feet of a public facility, as well as at places of employment, bars, restaurants and outdoor sports facilities. The ordinance also allows owners, operators and managers the ability to extend existing non-smoking regulations to any area of their properties.
While the expansion of the policy to the city's parks is a significant move, more than 900 of the nation's municipal parks systems are already smoke-free. In fact, Houston was the largest U.S. city that still allowed smoking in parks. However, the Houston Public Library is believed to be one of the first large library systems in the country to implement such a policy, according to Parker.
While smoking is already banned within 25 feet of the entrances to libraries, the new policy will extend the smoking ban to all library property, which includes parking lots and public plazas. The new policy took effect Thursday (July 24) at downtown's Central Library and at the Julia Ideson Building, and the full ban at all libraries and parks will take effect on Sept. 2.
Signage will be posted at each property notifying users of the ban and enforcement will be administered by staff, as well as Houston Police, if needed. Patrons who refuse to comply with the policy will be asked to leave and may ultimately face a municipal citation with a fine of up to $2,000.