Minneapolis considering park vaping ban

The proposed ban would cover all forms of smoking and vaping.

The proposed ban would cover all forms of smoking and vaping.

The e-cig regulation Gov. Mark Dayton will almost certainly sign into law over the weekend doesn't outright ban vaping in public places. Bars and restaurants can continue to allow e-cigs inside their premises, assuming local laws don't prohibit it.

Speaking of local regulations, one that will soon be considered by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board would ban all forms of smoking and vaping throughout all Minneapolis parks.

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The proposed smoking/vaping ban is being pushed by Park Commissioners John Erwin and Jon Olson.

Reached for comment this morning, Erwin says the Park Board's current smoking policy, which bans smoking in certain places based on proximity to buildings, ballparks, and so forth, is "confusing for enforcement and for residents."

"Frankly, I think a lot of people think there's no smoking in the parks anyway," he says.

But why ban vaping too?

"There's been a lot of recent news about how bad these things are in getting kids to eventually move to cigarettes," Erwin replies. "We wanted to expand to e-cigs and also take into account medical marijuana, and protect any residents that go to parks from those. They go to parks to breathe in clean air and exercise and we didn't want to have that influence."

Erwin believes Minneapolis residents are supportive of the type of ban he's proposing.

"Part of the Park Board's core mission is to promote public health and recreation, and allowing people to smoke in parks seems antithetical to that," he says.

The park smoking ban will be considered by the Park Board's Recreation Committee during its June 4 meeting. If it's approved there, it'll advance to the full Park Board for a final vote on June 21.

It's not yet clear whether the smoking/vaping regulation will take the form of a policy (which is unenforceable) or an ordinance (which is enforced with tickets).

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"I would suggest to the committee that we should have an ordinance, otherwise it's unenforceable," Erwin says. "The first year, no tickets would be given, but warnings would, to give people time to learn."

Erwin proposes that people who violate the ordinance be fined $50, but "the committee and board can change that along the way," he says.

Also unclear is exactly when the regulation would go into effect. Erwin acknowledges money would have to be spent on signage to inform park-goers about the new rule.

The smoking/vaping ban already has the support of at least three of the nine park commissioners -- namely Erwin, Olson, and Liz Wielinski. Erwin says he hasn't been able to gauge how much support his proposal has beyond that because open-meetings laws limit how much he can communicate with his Park Board colleagues outside of official meetings.

MinnPost reports that if Erwin's smoking/vaping ban is approved, Minneapolis would become the first city in the state to ban vaping in parks.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]