CHICAGO (CBS) — Smoking in Chicago parks is illegal, but that’s not stopping some regulars from blowing smoke in the face of the opposition.
With a fountain in the middle, and a gelato stand on the edge, Mariano Park is a popular spot to relax in the Gold Coast neighborhood.
Like other parks in Chicago, smoking is prohibited; with signs clearly marking the ban posted throughout the tiny tree-lined triangle in the Gold Coast.
However, from table to table and bench to bench, the smoking ban doesn’t seem to be having much of an impact.
“There’s no smoking signs posted around the perimeter of this park, and people just don’t pay attention to them,” Carrie Mangoubi said.
Mangoubi would like to clear the air, not just for her kids who come to play, but also seniors relaxing in the sun. Plus, it’s the law.
“It doesn’t stay contained at the table that you’re at,” she said. “It expands, and you can smell it from across the park.”
Approach a smoker and you might get a rude response.
One smoker blew smoke in the face of CBS 2’s Vince Gerasole.
“Maybe you shouldn’t bother me now, because otherwise I’ll get mad,” he said.
Park visitors said police officers who have tickets at the ready for parking violations frequently don’t say anything to smokers at the park, even though violations are punishable by arrest and a fine of up to $500.
“There’s always cop cars around here, and they don’t seem to be enforcing the law,” Mangoubi said.
“If somebody is nice and says the smoke’s really bothering me, bothering my child, or whatever, we stop,” smoker Terry Cohen said.
Cohen and other regulars said they gladly move to the edge of the park, where they believe smoking is allowed, but it’s actually prohibited within 15 feet of the perimeter of all Chicago parks.
“A dog is allowed to urinate in the park, you don’t have to wash it, you don’t have to clean it; but yet you can’t smoke a cigar or cigarette on the sidewalk? I don’t understand that,” Cohen said. “Without getting political, our mayor can pick and choose the laws she wants to follow. They’re coming with ICE, and she’s giving a heads up. We’re not following that. So perhaps we’ve decided not to follow that law.”
Smoking is banned at all of the city’s 580 parks, but at larger venues and festivals, where people are probably lighting up, it’s harder to enforce, and easy to move away from smoke and fumes.
That’s not the case at Mariano Park, which Mangoubi said should be easier to police.
“It’s a very small park,” she said. “I do not want to stop anybody from doing what they want to do. I just want them to find a better place to do it.”
Chicago police could not provide numbers on how many citations have been issued for smoking at Mariano Park, but they did say of the six disturbance calls they’ve received since January, none were smoking-related.