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Should Boston ban smoking in parks?

Posted by Alex Pearlman  December 9, 2013 01:20 PM

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(Photo by LawPrieR/Flickr)

Attention, smokers: Move to the sidewalk. Your days of lighting up in Boston's parks are probably numbered. The Boston Parks Commission will vote this month on whether to ban smoking in all of the city's parks, under penalty of a $250 fine. (And put away that e-cigarette, too. It's covered by the ban.)

The City Council passed the ban last month, sparking another debate about secondhand smoke versus smokers' rights. Today, the Globe Editorial Board sides with the smokers. Have you smoked on the Greenway, or walked through a cloud of secondhand smoke on the Common? Do you think this is matter of public health, or something etiquette can handle? We've collected some opinions below. Add yours to the comments, or tweet us @BostonComment.

Protecting the parks

Joanne Hayes-Rines photo.jpgOne of our members is in the park every morning cleaning up trash and cigarette butts. It’s a labor of love. One of her biggest complaints is that cigarette butts are all over the park. From early spring through the fall, she picks up thousands of cigarette butts, and it’s especially bad on Saturday and Sunday mornings. I’m thrilled that smoking may be banned in the parks. They make a terrible mess, the secondhand smoke isn’t healthy, and the odor is off-putting. Christopher Columbus Park is a beautiful, tranquil park at the edge of the harbor. Its design and location encourages people to sit on a bench or on the grass, look at the water, watch children play in the fountain and just relax. I’d like to see smoking banned in every park. It’s another step toward trying to encourage cleanliness and healthy living.
Joanne Hayes-Rines
President, Friends of Christopher Columbus Park

A matter of manners

Peter-Post-2-WO.jpgThe reality is, I think most people make the effort to smoke without being a problem for the people around them. We’ve been living with this for decades. The nonsmoker is the person who trumps the situation. Most people I see using cigarettes do it appropriately - except for tossing them. I’m not sure, if I was a nonsmoker, I’d go say something to a smoker. You’ve got to be careful who you’re going to criticize and how you’re going to criticize him. Are the blood pressure levels that you’re going to achieve worth it? There really are times when it’s better just to fold ’em.
Peter Post, @EmilyPostInst
E-Word blogger,

Always a nuisance

Patrick Garvin, @PatrickMGarvin
Globe designer/graphic artist; Tumblr: whatithoughtabouttoday

Not the government's job

Thumbnail image for jacoby.png.jpgAnyone who is sensitive to secondhand smoke can easily avoid it outdoors. Moving to another park bench or stretch of beach to get away from a cigarette may be annoying, but it isn’t the purpose of law -- or City Council’s job -- to protect us from every conceivable annoyance. If the councilors were proposing to ban noisy children or trashy dress from public parks, who would take them seriously? But come up with another way to crack down on smoking, and virtually no restriction is beyond the pale. Why?
Jeff Jacoby, @jeff_jacoby
Boston Globe columnist

"Smoke Nazis?"

A waste of time and energy

Things we can't police

headshot 100x100.jpegI'm a smoker. I hope to quit someday, but now I smoke – in the Common, on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, in the Public Garden, in Ringer Park. When I smoke, I also adhere to general societal norms such as: depositing my butt in a trash receptacle, holding the smoke in a second longer to let a baby stroller roll by, not lighting up near a group of kids, not blowing smoke at people doing tai chi. If you're on the other side of the park, on a bench across the way, or even walking by me, the smell of my smoke may be annoying. But that's part of the danger you face when you leave the house. The same way I cannot police loud music, screaming children, barking dogs, or the smell of grape-flavored candy (equally offensive), you cannot police my cigarettes. Find a real problem to solve.


Alex Pearlman, @lexikon1 product manager/Boston.Comment producer

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About Boston.comment

weiss.jpegBoston.comment is an exchange for ideas about Boston and beyond, brought to you by the Boston Globe editorial page and edited by Globe columnist Joanna Weiss. We're the sponsor of's #LabDebates and the creator of the Choose Your Own Adventure mayoral game.

Our producer is Alex Pearlman, with contributions (and sea monsters) from Noah Guiney. To join the conversation, post a comment, tweet with our daily hashtag, or follow us on Twitter @BostonComment.

A note on comments: Be honest, be open, be polite. And be warned: Personal attacks will be removed.

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