Walla Walla considers banning or restricting smoking in parks

WALLA WALLA, Wash. - Smoking in parks in Walla Walla has been completely legal for years, but that could soon change.

The Parks, Recreation & Urban Forestry Advisory Board (PRUFAB) is now discussing the possibility of having smoking zones at local parks. The board had originally asked city council to approve a full ban on smoking but at Wednesday night's meeting, council members asked the board to consider smoking zones as an option instead.

"Between 2015 and the most current data that we have, youth smoking has increased 5 percent in Walla Walla," said Amy Osterman, Walla Walla County Youth Marijuana and Tobacco Prevention Coordinator.

Osterman originally proposed the idea of a smoking ban to PRFUAB members back in March.

"We at the health department were concerned about (that number) and thought about what steps we could take to get a handle on that, maybe reverse the trend," said Osterman.

Another concern is the dangers of secondhand smoke.

"Secondhand smoke is a known carcinogen," said Osterman. "Especially for lung cancer but also for other cancers."

A community survey in 2014 found that about 85 percent of people in Walla Walla were in favor of smoke-free parks.

"From time to time we do get complaints," said Andy Coleman, Parks & Recreation director. "It's happened a few times at Memorial Pool, where the park is adjacent to the pool and so some smokers will be in the park and that secondhand smoke blows into the pool area."

That's where one local mom took her kids Thursday afternoon.

"There were people smoking right out front which I think is a little odd," said Hillary Pumphrey. "I get it, people want to smoke where they want to smoke, but at the same time I don't want (my kids) inhaling secondhand smoke."

The advisory board will discuss potential smoking zones at their next meeting on August 6. Once they come up with a proposal they will present it to the city council, possibly in September.

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