Cheh Advances Legislation to Ban Outdoor Smoking in D.C.

Bill would prohibit smoking in parks, trails, community facilities, swimming pools, recreation centers, and Metro bus stops.

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, chaired by Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) advanced a measure that would substantially limit outdoor smoking in and around the District of Columbia. The legislation would make it illegal to use tobacco products in and around city-owned or maintained parks, dog parks, nature trails, community facilities, swimming pools, spray parks, recreation centers, and bus stops. The legislation is aimed at curbing the harmful effects of secondhand smoke in outdoor environments, which studies have shown pose the same level of danger as exposure to secondhand smoke indoors.

“This legislation seeks to provide increased protections to the residents of the District from the deadly effects of secondhand smoke,” said Cheh. “At the moment, District residents are protected from secondhand smoking in many indoor establishments, like restaurants, bars, and all places of employment. However, we currently provide no protection from secondhand smoke in outdoor environments, where many D.C. residents, including children spend a considerable amount of their time.”

During a May 13th hearing on the legislation, Deputy Director Ryan Springer of the Department of Health and Director Jesús Aguirre of the Department of Parks and Recreations both testified in favor of the legislation. Both directors highlighted the harmful effects of outdoor secondhand smoke and their belief that this legislation is a key component of a comprehensive strategy to reduce smoking throughout the District.

According to the EPA, secondhand smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals, with at least sixty-nine of them being known as carcinogens. Inhaling the mixture of chemicals from secondhand smoke can cause adverse health effects including heart disease, asthma, and lung cancer. In addition, secondhand smoke is known to have even more adverse effects on children, who are currently exposed to secondhand smoke on many D.C. playgrounds, which the legislation if passed will prohibit.

“It is unfortunate for any resident or visitor to be exposed to the dangerous effects of secondhand smoke, but is even more unfortunate when we expose our children to this danger,” said Cheh. “I am pleased that the committee approved such an important public health measure that benefits all of D.C.”

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