PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Two weeks before a smoking ban goes into effect at all Portland city parks, the commissioner behind the proposal eliminated virtually all punishment for breaking the rule, which has many wondering — what’s the point?
“Sometimes I like to have a cigarette,” smoker Debbie Wright said. “Well, we’re outside.”
Beginning July 1, a citywide ban against smoking in public parks will go into effect.
“I don’t think it’s fair to tell me I can’t hang out in a park for something I’ve been doing since I was 18,” smoker JJ Starks said.
Recently, many expressed confusion over what it all means after Commissioner Amanda Fritz backpedaled on the penalties.
In February, the city decided smoking in parks would become a misdemeanor offense which could lead to a citation, and the possibility of excluding those who refuse to comply from local parks.
But in a city council meeting Wednesday, Commissioner Fritz tamed down the ordinance to say no more misdemeanors or park exclusions. Those caught smoking in parks could be asked to leave for the rest of the day — but that’s the worst that could happen. Enforcement would fall on park rangers, not police.
“It all depends on how strict they are going to go with the regulations,” Starks said. “Makes people feel like they’re criminalizing everyone for something that is socially already acceptable.”
Commissioner Fritz said the city expects people to obey the ban because it’s the right thing to do.
Parks officials budgeted $9,500 for signs and decals in city parks on the new rules. According to a bureau spokesman, the city will start installing them in July.
The Associated Press contributed to this story