Clean Air and Public Places Ordinance

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What you need to know about the ordinance and the proposed changes.

Why does Grand Rapids need this ordinance?

Smoke-free and tobacco-free parks promote healthy living

  • Smoke-free environments help adults model healthy behavior for kids and can encourage people who smoke to smoke less or even quiti
  • Tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and compounds, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 69 that cause cancerii

Exposure to secondhand smoke is unhealthy – even outdoors

  • 2 out of every 5 children (including 7/10 African American children) are exposed to secondhand smokeiii
  • The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smokeiv Secondhand smoke causes nearly 3,000 deaths from lung cancer and 46,000 deaths from heart disease every year in the United Statesv
  • Studies have found that levels of secondhand smoke in outdoor areas can be equal to amounts found inside where smoking is allowed

Smoke-free parks mean less litter

  • Cigarette butts are poisonous to children and wildlife and are the most common form of litter. Studies show that cigarette butts are toxic, slow to decompose and costly to clean up.

Parks exist as places for health and wellness within the community

  • Currently, 13.9% of adult Michiganders smoke, 7.6% of high schoolers smoke cigarettes, and 32.6% of high schoolers use e-cigarettesvi
  • We go to parks to play with our kids, to participate in sports, or to relax and enjoy the outdoors. Creating smoke-free parks will make our outdoor spaces even more conducive to healthy living

Neighmond P. “Smoking Bans Help People Quit, Research Shows.” National Public Radio, October 25, 2007. Available at: www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15610995.

ii US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General. 2010, p. 17.

iii American Lung Association, 2019.

iv US Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General. How Tobacco Smoke Causes Disease: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking-Attributable Disease: A Report of the Surgeon General. 2010, p. 9.

v US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tobacco Use: Targeting the Nation’s Leading Killer. 2011, p. 2. Available at: www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/pdf/2011/Tobacco_AAG_2011_508.pdf.

vi MMWR Tobacco Product Use Among High School Students, 2019 and Tobacco Free Kids, 2018.

What does the ordinance do?

The Clean Air & Public Places Ordinance will protect the health of our community and our environment by adding outdoor public places, including city playgrounds and parks, to the list of places where smoking and related activities are prohibited.

  • Includes parks and playgrounds as public places where smoking is prohibited
  • Prohibits all tobacco, electronic smoking devices and marijuana products in public places
  • Prohibits disposal of tobacco waste in public places
  • Prohibits intimidation against another person
  • Requires clear signage to be posted in parks

Smoking is defined as “inhaling, exhaling, burning, vaporizing, or carrying any lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe, weed, or plant, except as part of a religious ceremony or observance.”

This ordinance would include all tobacco products (cigarette, cigar, vapor products including tobacco and smokeless tobacco), electronic smoking devices and marijuana (which is already prohibited in public places by state law).

How will the ordinance be enforced?

Education will be the primary goal of implementing the ordinance. While there are consequences for violating this ordinance – including possible fines – it's not intended to punish anyone, but rather to create healthy and accessible public places.

If park visitors refuse to comply after multiple requests and verbal warnings, they would be liable for a civil infraction ($25 fine) or participation in a smoking cessation program with connections to community resources. We recognize that smoking is addictive and as such we will continue to work with local partners to provide educational resources and support for tobacco-free living.

What does the community think of this?

In 2016, Grand Rapids established 28 tobacco-free recreation areas through a pilot project led by Kent County Health Connect, a partnership between Kent County Health Department, the Urban League, Cherry Health and numerous organizations dedicated to improving health.

Originally 21 parks and schools were set to participate, however, 7 additional parks requested participation due to interest. Below is a list of participating parks.

  • Aberdeen Park
  • Bike Park
  • Briggs Park
  • Brookside Elementary
  • Buchanan Elementary
  • Burton Elementary
  • Campus Elementary
  • Caulfield Park
  • Cesar Chavez Elementary
  • Cherry Park
  • Clemente Park
  • Congress Elementary
  • Cook Arts Center
  • Cook Library Center
  • Dickinson Elementary
  • Fulton St. Farmers Market
  • Garfield Park
  • Gerald R. Ford Academic Center
  • GR Discovery Center
  • Huff Park
  • Kensington Park
  • MLK Leadership Academy
  • Mulick Park Elementary
  • Pleasant Park
  • Riverside Park
  • Roosevelt Park
  • Sigsbee Park
  • Southwest Community Campus

GR Urban League’s Urban Fellows saw a 50% reduction of cigarette butt litter in pilot project locations (2016).


A 2017 survey reported that 85% of Grand Rapids residents approve or have no opinion of tobacco-free parks.

Zip Code: 49503
Approve or No Opinion of tobacco-free parks:
82.7%

Zip Code: 49504
Approve or No Opinion of tobacco-free parks: 
83.7%

Zip Code: 49505
Approve or No Opinion of tobacco-free parks: 
84.4%

Zip Code: 49506
Approve or No Opinion of tobacco-free parks: 
91.8%

Zip Code: 49507
Approve or No Opinion of tobacco-free parks: 
79.0%

Zip Code: 49508
Approve or No Opinion of tobacco-free parks: 
84.3%

Zip Code: 49512
Approve or No Opinion of tobacco-free parks: 
83.0%

Zip Code: 49525
Approve or No Opinion of tobacco-free parks: 
91.4%

Zip Code: 49534
Approve or No Opinion of tobacco-free parks: 
88.3%

Zip Code: 49546
Approve or No Opinion of tobacco-free parks: 
92.0%

Zip Code: 49548
Approve or No Opinion of tobacco-free parks: 
91.1%

Source: VoiceKent Surveyvii, Kent County, 2017