Starting June 1, It’s Illegal to Smoke in San Antonio’s Public Parks

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The Woodlawn Lake fields were flooded with families playing football, cooking, and enjoying the views. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

More than 400 individuals signed a petition in the Woodlawn Lake area to ban tobacco.

It’s already illegal to smoke tobacco products in City pavilions and playgrounds, but a new law unanimously passed by City Council on Thursday will make it illegal to smoke – or use any tobacco product – in all City parks and public plazas.

Starting June 1, the penalty for smoking, vaping, or chewing tobacco in those spaces will be $200.

When the City was considering a smoke-free plan more than a decade ago, a ban on smoking in public parks was one of the most controversial decisions in front of City Council, said interim Councilman Art Hall (D2) who represented District 8 at the time.

But the attitudes and science behind the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke have drastically changed as evidenced by the lack of legitimate protest Thursday.

The City engaged neighborhood groups, business associations, and residents throughout the process of developing the new SA Parks System Plan, which also was approved Thursday, and found vast support to a tobacco ban, said Jennifer Herriott, interim director of the City’s Metropolitan Health District.

More than 400 individuals signed a petition in the Woodlawn Lake area to ban tobacco, she said.

“Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable disease,” Herriott said. “It causes over half a million deaths annually and over the last 50 years … it [has] caused 20 million premature deaths in the United States.”

The City will deploy education and awareness efforts, signs, and other ways to inform the public of the new law before the ban takes effect, said Parks and Recreation Director Xavier D. Urrutia. “We’re really looking at a positive message about being able to swim [run, bike, picnic] in a park smoke-free.”

A grant from the U.S. Department of Health will help pay for the signage, Urrutia said, and the ban has no budgetary impact to the City.

In 2010, City Council voted to prohibit indoor smoking throughout the City limits. In 2015, it added Travis Park and Main Plaza to the list of non-smoking areas. The more recent Tobacco 21 ordinance took effect in October 2018 and increased the age required to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21.

City Financials Get Gold Star From Auditors

The City’s annual external audit, performed by an independent certified accountant, came back with no evidence of inaccuracies, City Manager Erik Walsh told City Council on Thursday.

“Zero findings, with an unmodified opinion, means the City’s financial records are accurate and provide a true and fair view of the City’s financial standing,” according to a City news release.

“Over the last several years, we’ve focused on improvements to our financial reporting,” Walsh stated in the release. “Not only is this proof of the continued hard work of our Finance team, but it’s also a testament to our organizational philosophy to be good stewards of public funds—we are truly the best financially managed city in the country.”

Walsh was promoted and appointed to the top administrative position earlier this year after 13-year City Manager Sheryl Sculley retired.

A financial clean bill of health helps the City maintain its near-perfect bond ratings.

“This is a significant accomplishment given the size and complexity of our organization,” Chief Financial Officer Ben Gorzell stated.  “An audit with zero findings verifies our strong financial management and is the realization of the dedicated efforts of our Finance team.”

18 thoughts on “Starting June 1, It’s Illegal to Smoke in San Antonio’s Public Parks

  1. It’s always amazing to see City council actually working for the community? Oh, that’s right it’s re-election for most of those out of touch members!

  2. If I cant smoke in a city owned park that my tax dollars pay to maintain then I would like for my monies to be redirected to, wait I dont get that option.
    Cant wait to get out of this crappy city….

  3. Long overdue. There is no risk-free level of second-hand smoke. Outdoor bans will reduce smoking being modelled to children as normal behaviour. Hopefully this helps cut the uptake of smoking. Facts: Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure. This is about one in five deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day. On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers.
    On a global basis, tobacco kills more than 7 million people each year.
    So, that is akin to about 10 commercial airline flights a day in the US.
    Frankly, when I go to the park, I don’t want to breathe someone else’s deadly exhaust.

    • You are breathing traffic pollution too. This is an outrageous. I don’t smoke but penalizing someone who does is unjust. Especially when the penalty of a fine of $200! Average people can’t afford something like that on short notice. The intentions behind this are good, but the folks in power are just so out of touch with the working class. I’d support an education class to be completed by the smoker and hosted/provided by the city instead of a fine that goes on their record. People in power need to build real relationships with people out of their circle. Befriending a person who is homeless is a great start.

      • Please look up “The Tragedy of the Commons” and realize that having a polluting car in public also diminishes everyone else’s experience of our public spaces. It is not fair or right for you, or anyone else, to take away my share of what we all hold in common.

  4. Love this! Now… how is this law going to be enforced? I say this because we have a hands-free law, and yet I see more people driving with phone in hand than ever before. Laws are great but they’re useless without enforcement.

  5. Im all for not smoking but everyone needs to learn about vaping it is not smoke it doesn’t do like cigarette smoke it disappears the minute it is out plus no smell and its not Tobacco and vaping has help people quit smoking so learn what it is first before you start banning it

    • Secondhand aerosol from e-cigarette devices is harmful, too. Just because it’s less harmful than smoking doesn’t mean it’s not harmful. I don’t want to breathe your leftover chemicals.

    • I smoked for 20+ years, started vaping 5 years ago, vaping IS NOT smoke, I’m with u cb, I wish ppl would get more knowledge about vaping B4 they start bashing it. It’s no where near as harmful as smoking and there’s no second hand damage. I was planning a trip to SeaWorld in next few weeks but this seriously has me thinking about not going. Vaping gets such a bad rep from the big tobacco companies and from people who have NO IDEA what it’s really about or even picked up a cigarettes and then switched to vaping. Vaping has saved my life I believe. I don’t understand banning it, for that matter I don’t understand banning cigs in designated areas, if ur a non smoker, stay away from designated areas.

  6. What are some other unhealthy activities we can ban in public parks? Let’s see. Barbecue, not only creates smoke, which is carcinogenic, and just as harmful as smoke from tobacco, but it’s not the healthiest food you can eat. Also a new study says that obesity is contagious.

    In keeping with city councils desire to only promote healthy activity in public, we should ban obese people from ever going outside their homes, much less, making any appearances at our beloved public parks. We can also ban the consumption of sodas, which contribute greatly to obesity, which as stated above is contagious. Also we should ban the consumption of alcoholic beverages, since alcoholism is unhealthy, not to mention drunk driving. Just sayin. Don’t just single out smokers. I guess while we’re at it we should ban people laying out in the sun to get a sun tan, since skin cancer is a thing. These are just a few ideas for the next city council meeting.

    A new study, referenced in last weeks “wait wait don’t tell me”, a Sunday afternoon staple of NPR (so you know it HAS to be true), says that a persons diet has more of an effect on mortality than this? The answer was smoking. Go figure.

    Here’s the reference, in case you think I made that up:

    It seems like singling our tobacco use is a slippery slope, and that eventually if we carry that same logic to its reasonable conclusion, we should look at these other activities, and look to ban them as well. Of course that will never happen. Who wants to curtail the rights of obese people? Or barbecue enthusiasts? Or, god forbid, sun-bathers?

    • I agrees, we should ban all those things. But it would be easier just to pass a law forbidding people to enjoy themselves.

    • Loud music. Oh, wait, you can’t do that.
      Driving your car off the pavement. Oh, wait, you can’t do that either.
      Wait! Wait, Don’t tell me. Let’s see….. how about being civil, enjoying yourself, and being respectful of those around you? Huh. Yes. That’s OK.
      Harleys with loud pipes? Must be either OK or unenforced- just visit Brackenridge Park on any nice Sunday afternoon. Quiet, please.

  7. If anything smokers, drinkers, sun bathers, purveyors of loud music, should be lauded. Little children, of school age and older, should be bowing down to such individuals. After all, ironically, it’s these individuals purchases of socially harmful products, that are keeping the public schools above water. A recent Texas poll says that taxpayers are more willing to raise the sin tax to increase funding for public schools, than they are willing to have a sales tax increase that will reduce property taxes. The more we make Texas look like California, ie banning smoking in public, the more businesses will move here, the more Californians will move here, the more taxes we’ll pay, the more gentrified we’ll become. In ten years we won’t ever have to see another poor person again, we’ll have run them all out to the outlying towns, except for the occasional homeless person. By then though we’ll have banned homelessness. Homeless people will be subject to a fine, if they can’t pay it, they’ll occupy a jail cell, on your tax dollar. Jail is the new homeless shelter. Hey HBO, why not make that a show? How’s that for socialism? Absurd. But hey, we’ll just raise the sin tax some more to pay for prison overcrowding.

    Back to the smoking. Is everybody 100% certain that second hand smoke really is as bad as the anti smoking crusade would have us all believe? What do the scientific studies say? Here are two articles that throw a wrench into that apparently not so well oiled machine of an argument.

    I’m a smoker. I hope that from reading my comment you can tell that. I’m worried for the day when I can’t even smoke in my own car, which I don’t do, but if I wanted to, I’d like to know that I wasn’t breaking the law. If you think second hand smoke is a load, look up third hand smoke, and fourth. It seems like, if they want to ban all of this activity, they should make smoking illegal across the board. That way I won’t be able to buy them, and eventually after a period of cold turkey, I’d be able to kick them. In essence though, as stated before, without smokers, and drinkers, and other scum of the earth, our schools will go completely down the toilet, so they’ll never make them fully illegal. I’m just riffin. Hope this didn’t make too much sense. God bless America.

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