D.C. Council to consider extending smoking ban in public places

Photo: Flickr/Elvert Barnes

Under a proposal introduced by D.C. Councilman Vincent Orange, the city would further regulate where smokers could light up and could ban smoking near where children congregate.

It's already against the law in D.C. to smoke inside bars and restaurants, and outside of certain buildings. The latest proposal would ban smoking in and around playgrounds and city parks. It would not apply to National Park land, like Rock Creek Park and along the National Mall.

While some smokers who talked with ABC7 understand the move as a way to protect kids and keep smoke from people exercising outdoors, other smokers like Erik Bartley are feeling squeezed out by increasing restrictions on where they can smoke.

"God, it seems like you can't smoke anywhere these days," Bartley says. "It may as well be illegal at this point."

For Bartley the restrictions will get even tighter soon. He's an American University student and in the fall AU's D.C. campus will become one of the first in the country to go completely tobacco free.

Jason Kwasnicki is a smoker too, and a student at George Washington University, which also hopes to ban smoking on campus in the fall, even though GW is more of an urban campus.

"I really don't see how a school could possibly enforce this because they're in the middle of the city," Kwasnicki says. "They don't own the sidewalks; they don't own the streets."

Orange's proposal to ban smoking in parks and playgrounds would also include a 25-foot no-smoking buffer around the parks, a move designed to protect non-smokers but one that may just have smokers moving a little farther away.

"You can always find a place," Bryan Zimba says. "You have to walk maybe an extra 30-40 feet to do it but you know, you can always find a place to smoke."

A few other members of council are on board and will support Orange's proposal, but it's still too early to tell if there will be enough support for the measure to pass.