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Originally published January 26, 2010 at 9:09 PM | Page modified January 27, 2010 at 5:00 PM

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Parks plan: OK to spit, but not smoke

Feel free to spit, but don't even try lighting up. That's the latest message from the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department, which has dropped a proposal to ban spitting in parks but still is considering a ban on smoking.

Seattle Times Eastside reporter

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Public Comment: The Seattle parks board is taking public comment on the proposed rules via e-mail until Feb. 9. Send comments to to sandy.brooks@seattle.gov.

Public hearing: The Seattle parks board will take public comment at a 7 p.m. hearing Thursday at City Council Chambers in City Hall, 600 Fourth Ave.

Feel free to spit, but don't even try lighting up.

That's the latest message from the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department, which has dropped a proposal to ban spitting in parks but still is considering a ban on smoking.

The department released a list of rules earlier this month that proposed banning behaviors in city parks including smoking and spitting. A public outcry followed, and in response to public comment on the issue, spitting was given a reprieve while smoking remains in the hot seat.

"It [spitting] got so much attention on the first day and appeared to be the least important of the behaviors we were calling out," said department spokeswoman Dewey Potter.

But in e-mails to the parks board obtained by The Seattle Times, some people objected far more to the idea of the rules than to the rules themselves.

One woman wrote: "There must be something more pressing to spend your time on than thinking up ways to restrict or bar people's use of the facilities that, after all, BELONG TO THEM!"

The smoking ban was proposed in response to a December letter from City Council members Tom Rasmussen, Nick Licata and Sally Clark urging the department to develop a tobacco policy, Potter said.

But Licata said Tuesday that he favored a restriction on smoking, not a total ban.

"I don't think it's the best way to go about educating the public and approaching it in a reasonable fashion," he said. "If you don't have that sort of common-sense approach you almost invite a backlash."

Rasmussen said his primary concern was to ban tobacco use around children and in crowded areas where people can't get away.

There's a movement toward bans on smoking in parks nationwide, Potter said. Olympia and Tacoma's parks are smoke-free, as are Chicago's parks and Los Angeles' beaches, she said.

The Seattle parks board will hold a public hearing on the proposed rules at 7 p.m. Thursday. The board will consider the rules and make a recommendation to Parks and Recreation Superintendent Timothy Gallagher, who will make the final decision, Potter said.

Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or ntsong@seattletimes.com

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