Park Board bans use of e-cigs, chewing tobacco in parks

Park commissioners voted Wednesday to make all park property and facilities tobacco free by expanding a smoking policy to include e-cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s new policy prohibits the use of all tobacco products on park property and in buildings owned and operated by the board. Passing the measure puts the board among more than two-dozen metro-area park systems that have become tobacco free.

“This policy supports our mission to promote healthy lifestyles and environments for residents and park visitors across Minneapolis, and will contribute to many park patrons’ use and enjoyment of our system,” said Jayne Miller, the board’s superintendent, in a statement.

The policy will go into effect on May 8, two months following its passing. During the first year, the board will primarily enforce it by educating parkgoers on the change. After the initial year, park police and staff may ask tobacco users to leave park property.

The policy prohibits the use of any product that is made or derived of tobacco or that contains nicotine and that is intended for consumption. The board’s previous smoking policy from 2010 did not include chewing tobacco or e-cigs or other electronic delivery devices. The new policy allows for the use of tobacco for traditional spiritual or cultural ceremonies if approved by the board first.

The jurisdiction of the policy includes all land, parks and facilities owned and/or operated by the Park Board, such as playgrounds, beaches, walking and biking trails, restaurants and golf courses.

City Council members Cam Gordon (Ward 2) and Linea Palmisano (Ward 13) supported the policy change. In 2014 Minneapolis banned the use e-cigs in public indoor spaces, joining other Minnesota communities like Edina and Bloomington as well as large cities like Chicago and Los Angeles.

“While visiting our parks, visitors should be able to enjoy the outdoors without being exposed to the very serious health risks of tobacco,” they wrote in a letter to park commissioners.

The Park Board plans to build awareness of the policy change through signs and community meetings during the first year. The policy has been updated online.