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4 Questions About Dallas' New Befuddling Smoking Ban in Parks

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The Dallas City Council yesterday amended an existing ordinance to ban smoking from public parks. This has been done in other cities, like New York and San Antonio, with little head-scratching. But in Dallas, the council clouded the move with exemptions. Here's a quick rundown of who can smoke where.

1) So this is a ban on smoking at all parks?
Nope, but for a while it was. In August, the council's Quality of Life Committee supported a ban without exemptions. That's what the full council was set to vote on Wednesday — until council members introduced some loopholes. 

2) So where are the exemptions?
Parks operated by contractors got a pass from the ban. That means that municipal golf courses, the city's Elm Fork Shooting Sports range, Dallas Zoo and the arboretum are smoke 'em if you got 'em zones. You can light up at Fair Park, but only during the State Fair. The proposed Trinity River park also received an exemption — so you know where the council's head is at there, in terms of trying to hand it off to a private group to run.

3) What's the idea behind these exemptions, anyway?
The idea behind the exemptions comes from competitiveness. Golfers like to smoke, and the fear (voiced by council member and amendment sponsor Rickey Callahan) was that they'd take their business to courses without bans. Ditto shooting sports. North Dallas council member Lee Kleinman, no fan of regulations, added an amendment limiting the ban to only those places identified as a city park. (That's how the Trinity River space, operated by Trinity Watershed Management, already got its exemption.)

4) How will this be enforced?
The law is clear: Anyone caught violating the ordinance could be fined up to $200. But as with all prohibition laws, the question of who is watching out for violators is not clear. Parks Department Director Willis Winters spoke to City Council about this, and it didn't bode well for the ordinance actually working. He cited "voluntary compliance" and "peer-to-peer enforcement" as the solutions. Any enforcement will be hard, especially with a slate of confusing exemptions muddying the waters. 

Anyway, the idea of Joe Q. Citizen walking up to a renegade smoker and trying to enforce the ordinance seems outlandish. At the end of the day, police would have to be called to enforce the law. Somewhere we can hear former DPD Chief David Brown saying, "Yep, one more thing for cops to do."

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