Lake Michigan Smoking Ban

 

“IT’S A BREATH OF FRESH AIR,” said Joel Africk, president and CEO of the Respiratory Health Association.

Lake Michigan fisherman don’t panic!  If you are a smoker, you will be able to destroy your lungs all you want if you are on your boat, as it is private property, park district spokeswoman Kiera Ellis said before the ban passed. Smoking would not be permitted on park district land at the harbor, she said.

If you’re going to Riot Fest this weekend, be on the lookout for no smoking signs.

Smoking at Humboldt Park, where Riot Fest will be held, or any other city park was officially banned Wednesday after the Chicago Park District board passed a resolution without opposition, making parks and harbors smoke free.

The measure expands the smoking ban beyond beaches, playlots, playgrounds and park field houses under the park district umbrella and prohibits smoking any cigar, cigarette, pipe or vaporized substance in parks and harbors.

The smoking ban became an enforceable offense upon passage, although the park district’s attorney Tim King said they didn’t want to start hammering smokers with the ban and want to allow for a public notification period.

Passage of the smoking ban in the city’s 580 parks doesn’t affect just Riot Fest. It will mean concertgoers at a range of concerts in city—including the big-ticket Lollapalooza, Pitchfork and North Coast music festivals—will have to kiss their ash goodbye.

King said he talked to Riot Fest’s attorneys and there will be signs posted.

Riot Fest promoters declined to comment on how a smoking ban would affect the fest, including how it would comply with a smoking ban, whether it would create a designated smoking area or revisit its re-entry policy.

Pitchfork organizers declined to comment because the festival, held at Union Park, has not yet met with the park district about guidelines for the new regulation, festival spokeswoman Jessica Linker said.

“Once the festival is appraised of any new implementations, they will work with the park district to outline a plan for the festival,” she said.

Lollapalooza, held in Grant Park; North Coast, held in Union Park; and Live Nation, which operates Northerly Island’s First Merit Pavilion, did not return a call for comment.

The park district code already bans smoking within 15 feet of beaches and fines violators up to $500.

The same distance and fine will apply to parks and harbors. So stepping inches away to the sidewalk to light up won’t be so simple, park district spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner said.

Park board president Bryan Traubert suggested the park district staff look into how other cities notify the public of the no-smoking rule such as handing out cards explaining the law.

Cigar smoker Michael Altshuler plans to continue smoking in parks and risk getting slapped with fine for violating the parks smoking ban.

“If someone gives me a hassle about it, I’ll move,” said Altshuler, 46, who lives in Ukrainian Village. He doesn’t smoke inside his home but likes to sit in parks, relax and smoke a stogie. “It’s more of social activity to smoke with friends and have good conversation,” he said.

“My choices and my options are being taken away by this and I don’t like it,” Altshuler said.

Mayor Emanuel has supported a smoke-free parks policy in his “Healthy Chicago” public health agenda issued in 2011, and a statement from his office last month said the push for a ban would be explored.

On Wednesday, the mayor’s office said the park policy complements Emanuel’s work on the issue in bringing the adult and youth smoking rates down in Chicago, which has the highest tax total in the country at $7.17 per pack of cigarettes.

“The Mayor supports smoke-free policies like the one passed by the Park District Board because they create an environment that encourages smokers to quit and discourages kids from picking up the habit,” a statement from his office said.

Before Emanuel took office, city council passed the Clean Indoor Air Ordinance prohibiting smoking in Chicago’s restaurants, bars, sports areas, concert halls and inside other public places.

The Respiratory Health Association pushed for the ban, citing reasons to protect the public from second-hand smoke, reduce cigarette butt litter, encourage smokers who want to quit and prevent youth from picking up the habit.

Nearly nine out of 10 smokers start before the age of 18, and 98 percent start smoking by age 26, the association said.

“We’re not trying to punish and shame the smokers,” Africk said.

Although it falls on the police department for enforcement, King told the park board that the much of it would rely on self-policing and “policing by public scorn.”

King said he was not aware of any tickets being issued for violating the park district’s smoking ban passed in 2007 for beaches and playgrounds.

“It’s like curbing your dog. That’s a fine. That’s a violation of Chicago municipal ordinance to leave dog feces at a park. But how many people have you ever seen ticketed for that?” King said.

“We are making a statement that there’s a law available to be enforced.”

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