Smoke-free Parks

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A comprehensive review of the policy considerations underlying state and municipal smoke-free parks laws.

Executive Summary

Smoke-free parks policies have increased in popularity over the last decade. As of January, 2014, more than 900 municipalities in the U.S have enacted smoke-free parks policies. Several dozen additional municipalities are currently weighing policy options regarding smoke-free parks.

Notwithstanding the current trend, some demographic disparities exist among communities adopting smoke-free parks policies. As public health organizations work to address the disproportionate impact of tobacco use on economically underdeveloped communities and other vulnerable populations, such as youth, it will be more important than ever to enact health policies supported by data.

The paper examines the justifications for smoke-free park policies, specifically:

  1. The individual health impact of exposure to outdoor tobacco smoke;
  2. The environmental impact of tobacco litter; and
  3. The public health impact of reinforcing smoke-free environments as a social norm.

The paper also identifies some of the arguments used most frequently in opposition to such ordinances.

Finally, this paper presents some of the leading policy considerations for communities contemplating the adoption of smoke-free parks.


Todd D. Fraley, JD
Kate Sheridan, MPH
Joel J. Africk, JD
Matt Maloney


This paper was made possible by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (Grant Number: 1H75DP004181-01) to the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Office of Student Health and Wellness, Healthy CPS. The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions and official policies of CDC.

This paper has been written with a general audience in mind and is provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal opinion. Policy makers considering regulating smoking in outdoor environments within their municipalities should consult with their city law departments or other legal counsel.

Date of Publication: March 2014