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A middle ground on proposed Boston parks smoking ban

Posted by Rob Anderson  February 11, 2011 01:21 PM

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smoke.JPGEarlier this week, I argued that the Boston City Council shouldn't ban smoking in city parks and beaches because it's easy for park goers to avoid second-hand smoke if they wish to (unlike waiters, who had to work in smoke-filled environments before a smoking ban for restaurants hit the books — if they wanted to keep their jobs, that is). Although commenter Gunboat82 opined that my argument was "among the most ridiculous and indefensible" ever published on, the majority of people who voted in a related poll thought the ban would be excessive.

The Globe's editorial board weighs in today, but instead of siding with either the pro- or anti-ban crowds, the editors chart their own path, arguing that parks and beaches are big enough to accommodate smokers and smoke haters alike. "The entire concept of public space," the editorial points out, "suggests that concessions must made to accommodate different needs and behaviors; it ought to be within the capacity of park managers to draw sensible boundaries":

Public parks serve many functions. They are gardens, rallying places, sports turf, hiking spots, dog-walking spaces, and more. To preserve all these functions, curators maintain a flexible set of rules — pets are allowed in some places, but not others; walking on the grass is okay in certain areas, but not everywhere. In at least some places, there are bans on certain types of food, attire, and noise. The goal is to ensure the maximum enjoyment for the maximum numbers of people.

"A similarly flexible standard should be applied to smoking in parks and beaches," the editors conclude.

A constructive discussion of the proposed ban is taking place on West Roxbury District Councilor Matt O'Malley's Fabebook page. Coincidentally, a few commenters there propose ideas similar to the editorial board's. Marianne O'Malley writes:

The park system is for all, so make a divide 1/2 smoke free, 1/2 for smokers. This can be a win win situation. Just as dog walkers pick up the dog droppings, the smokers need to be considerate about leaving their butts on the ground.

Suzanne Niforos endorses the idea of smoking areas well, adding that it's "what Disney World has gone to and it seems to work."

Globe file photo: A no-smoking sign at Pirone Park in Ayer

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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