Boston Mayor Thomas Menino is expected to sign an ordinance in the coming weeks voted on by the Boston City Council that would ban smoking in all public parks owned by the City of Boston.
Nick Martin, director of communication at the Boston Public Health Commission, said the impetus for writing this ordinance was to expand upon Menino’s effort to create healthier environments in Boston. Under Menino, smoking was also banned in bars and restaurants in 2004.
“Mayor Menino has been a great leader in terms of trying to reduce people’s exposure to secondhand smoke in the city,” he said. “Two years ago, the mayor created a program with the parks department to put up signage in playgrounds for little children, asking that people not smoke. At the time that was done, there was not an enforcement mechanism behind it like there will be with this new ordinance.”
Under the ordinance passed by the City Council on Nov. 27, smoking would be banned in all parks, including the Boston Common, the Public Garden and Franklin Park. Those caught smoking cigarettes, marijuana or any “lighted or vaporized” substances will receive a $250 fine.
However, there is parkland within Boston that is not owned by the city and would not be part of the smoking ban. City officials said the ordinance would reduce the harmful effects of secondhand smoke and curb litter in the area.
“It’s been demonstrated that there isn’t a safe level of secondhand smoke exposure, so it’s important to reduce people’s exposure to it, especially children and people who might have issues like asthma or other respiratory difficulties,” Martin said.
If this measure is adopted, Boston will be following in the footsteps of other major cities such as New York, Chicago and San Francisco, who have imposed restrictions on smoking outside.
“Boston is a very clean and healthy city in general, and I think this will take that one step further,” Martin said.
Jacqueline Goddard, spokeswoman for the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, said the commission is open to discussing the ordinance, which is tentatively scheduled to go before the commission on Dec. 30.
Joanne Hayes-Rines, president of the Friends of Christopher Columbus Park, said she is thrilled the city may adopt this ban on smoking.
“In Columbus Park here on the waterfront, the number of cigarette butts that are all over the ground mars the appearance of the park and it’s unhealthy, as we all know too,” she said.
Hayes-Rines said her only concern is the measure could lack proper enforcement.
“It’s one thing to pass an ordinance such as dogs are supposed to be on leash in parks, and we know in many parks that doesn’t happen,” she said. “Just banning cigarettes doesn’t mean it will happen unless there is some enforcement.”
Several residents, both smokers and non-smokers, said this ordinance is too intrusive.
Tom Naughton, 54, of Jamaica Plain, said the City of Boston should not have so much control over peoples’ lives.
“I’m not a smoker, but it seems too Big Brother to me,” he said. “It’s taking people’s rights away. If someone wants to smoke, it’s not healthy, it’s bad, but if that’s what he or she wants to do, it’s his or her right.”
Cary Chatham, 42, of Roxbury, said smokers in Boston are respectful of non-smokers and they should be allowed to smoke in parks, as long as it is far enough from people so the secondhand smoke does not bother them.
“I frequent the [Boston] Common and I think that I’m always respectful of other people even though I am a smoker,” he said. “If I see children, I’m making sure that I’m not smoking near them. Everybody should be on their own recognizance, not forced by any law.”
Adam Boyajy, 34, of the South End, said he supported the ban on smoking in public parks because he did not want to be exposed to secondhand smoke.
“I’m for anything that bans smoking in any shared space,” he said. “It might [infringe on peoples’ rights] a little bit, but I think when I breathe in secondhand smoke, I feel like my rights are being infringed upon a little bit. The fact that smokers may not get to smoke in parks anymore is a fair deal, because that means other people won’t have to breathe in their junk.”