Minneapolis may ban smoking, e-cigs in all parks

MINNEAPOLIS - The city of Minneapolis is considering a smoking ban in all city parks, including e-cigarettes.

Some Minneapolis officials want there to be no more puffing in city parks, and if the ban or an ordinance is approved those caught smoking cigarettes or e-cigarettes could be hit with a fine.

For many, a day at the park is a chance to enjoy the outdoors, and breathe in the fresh air.

At Boom Island Park on Saturday, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board,President Liz Wielinski said, "The parks are one of the places most people go to get exercise when they're not at a gym."

So Wielinski said the board is considering a complete ban of smoking in all of its city parks.

At Lake Calhoun, Eugene Simonovich, a former smoker, said, "Yeah they should do it. No smoking in parks. There's a lot of kids here."

But for smokers, outdoors is one of the only places they are still allowed to light up.

Smoker Vladimir Vasilevskiy said, "We can't do anything anymore so I think we should at least get a smoking section in each park of the city."

Smoking is already banned within 100 feet of gathering areas like park buildings and beaches.

This expansion of the ban to all park land would ban e-cigarettes too.

Andrew Lutton of Bloomington recently switched from tobacco to e-cigarettes. He said, "If I was walking around smoking this, I don't feel like anybody would walk by and be like 'please don't smoke that around me'."

The park board will consider the ban in June. A ban would not allow police to write tickets but an ordinance would.

If a ban is passed by the board this summer, there would be public hearings before the board could pass an ordinance to allow police enforcement.

Fines for smoking in a park could be $50 or more.

Wielinski said, "They've looked at different cities and they range anywhere from 20-50 dollars up to 200 to 300. So it could be small, it could be big. It kind of depends and I guess once you're in the system, there could be an escalating one as well."

Cap O'Rourke represents Independent Vapor Retailers of Minnesota. The group plans to fight the ban. "It is unfortunate that the Minneapolis park board is considering a ban on vaping products in the park system," said O'Rourke. "Many Minnesotans have turned to using these product as a better alternative to cigarettes and have seen great improvements in their lives. Why the park board would want to limit devices that have no evidence of harm and are helping reduce peoples dependence on cigarettes is truly a mystery."

Wielinski says the mission of the park board is to provide healthy opportunities and parks should reflect that. She said, "A lot of it is image and if it's not cool to smoke more people don't smoke."

Vasilevskiy wants to quit smoking. He said, "It's hard but I'm going to get it done."

He said maybe a complete ban in Minneapolis parks would give him the push he needs.


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