Creating Smoke-Free Public Spaces in Delaware

Building Smoke-Free Communities

The Burden of Smoking

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. According to the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services, approximately 18% of Delawareans smoke cigarettes, and 24% of Delawareans use any type of tobacco product. The 2017 Delaware State Epidemiological Profile showed that in 2014 alone, 1,400 Delawareans died of tobacco related causes. The report estimated that if smoking rates in Delaware don't change, 17,000 of Delawareans who were minors in 2014 will die from smoking. While smokers themselves are at increased risk for death, 41,000 people die from exposure to secondhand smoke in the nation each year. In addition to the countless preventable deaths caused by tobacco use, smoking also creates a massive financial burden. Each year, Smoking in Delaware causes an estimated $532 million in health care costs and $391 million in productivity losses. Given the health risks and financial burdens smoking directly causes, creating smoke-free communities across Delaware is an essential part of making Delaware healthy and livable.

Smoke-Free Policies

Not only has this country made tremendous progress against smoking over the last several decades, but researchers and policy makers have discovered the most effective interventions to decrease smoking: policies that limit where people can smoke, decrease access to smoking, and change social norms about smoking. On the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Surgeon General Report that famously warned the public about the dangers of smoking, former Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius declared, "I believe we can make the next generation tobacco-free." By pursuing local policies that limit where people can smoke, every local community in Delaware can play a part in saving millions of lives.

The initiatives described below provide examples of policy strategies that may help Delaware municipalities continue to build on the foundation of the Delaware Clean Indoor Air Act as they strive toward creating smoke-free communities.

Delaware Local Government Smoke-Free Initiatives

Smoking Bans on City Property

By banning smoking on city owned property, communities can communicate their support for smoke-free attitudes. Many municipalities have instituted such policies, and they vary in scope and intensity.

  • The City of Smyrna bans smoking within 25 feet of public entrances and 20 feet of private entrances to city owned facilities.
  • The City of Dover bans smoking on all city owned property.
  • The Town of Elsmere bans smoking within 50 feet of the entrances and exits to facilities owned by the town as long as the town is involved in the facilities operation.

Smoking Bans for Parks and Playgrounds

Parks and playgrounds encourage healthy lifestyles by promoting active living and clean environments. Banning smoking further builds on the healthy atmosphere of parks by ensuring residents are breathing healthy air. Smoking is one of the largest external triggers for asthma, so such bans are especially helpful in creating a safe environment for kids with asthma to engage in play, socialization, and exercise. Furthermore, smoking bands at this level reduce litter and the risk of fire.

  • The City of Lewes bans smoking on playgrounds and parks. Furthermore, the city requires all playgrounds and parks to offer appropriate disposal mechanisms for tobacco products at the entrance way to the parks and playgrounds.
  • The City of New Castle's policies require all parks and playgrounds to be smoke-free.
  • The City of Smyrna bans smoking within 25 feet of the perimeter of both playgrounds and public parks.

Smoking Bans for Beaches

Given the expansive shoreline of Delaware, smoke-free policies for beaches can benefit both residents and seasonal visitors. Not only does banning smoking on the beach decrease secondhand smoke, but it also decreases pollution and the harm the toxic chemicals in cigarettes can cause to aquatic life. The National Visible Litter Survey found that "cigarette butts continue to be the most common litter item by a wide margin" on beaches and roadways. Smoke-free beaches are healthier, more attractive, and more environmentally responsible. The policies described below help create smoke-free beaches.

  • The City of Lewes bans smoking on beaches and mandates that waste receptacles be provided at beach entrances for proper disposal of smoking materials.
  • Rehoboth Beach bans smoking on the beach, boardwalk, and nearby bandstand plaza.
  • Bethany Beach bans smoking on the boardwalk and bandstand year round; and smoking is prohibited on the beach during the summer.
  • Fenwick Island and Dewey Beach both ban smoking year round on beaches and dunes.

Other Local Level Smoke-Free Initiatives

Around the country, municipalities have employed various tactics to create smoke-free communities. Many communities have pursued smoke-free park and beach policies, and, currently, there are several other smoke-free policies that are gaining prominence.

Public Transit Stops

People of all ages use public transit to get from here to there. Public transit reduces emissions by decreasing the use of cars for personal travel and helps those without access to cars travel. Consider the actions some communities have taken to make this travel experience more healthy and pleasant for everyone.

  • Ann Arbor, Michigan, banned smoking within 10 feet of bus stops.
  • Duluth, Minnesota, banned the use of smoking and chewing tobacco within 15 feet of city transit shelters. Duluth also required each transit shelter to display two signs explaining the smoking ban.
  • Washington, D.C. banned smoking within 25 feet of a bus stop when another person is present at the bus stops.


Many cities have created pedestrian plazas to increase the walkability and vibrancy of downtown communities. To foster the healthy and welcoming atmosphere in a plaza, consider the actions taken by some cities to keep the air cleaner by banning smoking within pedestrian plazas.

  • New York City banned smoking in designated pedestrian plazas to protect community members from being exposed to smoke in popular areas like Times Square and Herald Square.
  • Houston, Texas, banned smoking in all pedestrian plazas defined as "public street right-of-way that has been permanently closed to vehicular traffic, but is open to pedestrian passage."

Business and Downtown Districts

Business and downtown districts are often found bustling with workers and shoppers. These areas attract frequent pedestrian traffic. To help support a vibrant local economy, policies like those listed below ban smoking to create a healthy environment for local shopping and business.

  • Gloucester, New Jersey, banned smoking in the Monmouth Street Business District. This ban prohibited smoking in all areas of the district including the sidewalks and the streets.
  • Concord City, California, banned smoking in the Concord Downtown district in an effort to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke in a predominantly commercial area frequented by the public.

Pursuing Local Smoke-Free Initiatives

Pursuing smoke-free policies like those discussed above can help save the lives of thousands of Delawareans. Local communities have the power to use ordinances and codes to create and promote smoke-free environments that can help people quit smoking, decrease smoking initiation, and reduce exposure to secondhand smoke. For model ordinances that can help establish appropriate language for smoke-free legislation, visit cancer.gov, Change Lab Solutions, and the Public Health Law Center.