HOUSTON – Starting Sept. 2, all Houston city parks will be smoke-free, and those who don't follow the new rules could face a hefty fine.
City leaders said the dramatic change is needed to protect the public's health and improve the parks.
"It's to make them cleaner, to make them healthier and to make them safer," Parks and Recreation Director Joe Turner said.
The Downtown Houston Public Library has long banned smoking within 25 feet of the entrance, but people still gather to smoke outside of that distance. The new rules mean no smoking is allowed anywhere on library property.
Smoker Chris Crawford said he disagrees with the policy change.
"If I'm away from door, standing in open air smoking, I think I should be left alone and they shouldn't tell me I can't smoke here. I think that's wrong," Crawford said.
At Memorial Park, golfers who sometimes enjoy a cigar on the course said they'll adjust.
"I guess that's not going to bother me that much if we can't do that out here because that's the rule and probably helpful for everybody, so I'll have to make a change in behavior," Mike Wing said.
Park and library staff will enforce the ban, but said they will call Houston police if necessary. Violators will be asked to leave the property and could face a fine of up to $2,000.