Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is expected to sign an ordinance to forbid people from smoking tobacco, cannabis and vaporized nicotine products in public parks. While smoke-free parks may inspire more people to cut back on the number of cigarettes they smoke a day, it infringes on a person’s freedom to smoke a perfectly legal substance.
Let’s talk about the benefits of the ordinance. Fewer people will smoke around younger Bostonians while they play soccer or enjoy the grass in the Boston Common. The Public Gardens will actually smell like flowers instead of wisps of secondhand smoke. Cigarette butts will disappear from the grass and paths. Non-smokers will certainly experience the fresh air some starve for while living in a city. If the goal is phasing out smoking entirely, banning it in certain locations is a way to start. Parks, though, are open-air free spaces for all community members to enjoy.
Keeping cigarettes and cigars out of bars made sense because non-smoking patrons were captive in a space with minimal air circulation. Even if customers did not indulge, they ended up leaving an establishment reeking of secondhand smoke, and they probably even inadvertently inhaled a couple of cigarettes themselves. But in Boston, a windy city, smoke does not linger and force itself on non-smokers quite as much outside — they have the opportunity and ability to move away from a person lighting up a cigarette.
Instead of banning smoking from entire areas, cities should be designating areas for smokers to smoke freely. That way any non-smokers could avoid that spot in the park and allow people to enjoy their Turkish Royals or Newport Reds. Designated smoking areas also offer people a place to properly dispose their butts.
The ordinance should be more proactive than restrictive because those who smoke are taxpayers and voters as well. What constitutes a park? What if there are no other people around? These are questions Boston Police Department officers could face while fining people an hefty $250 for lighting up.