Boston to ban smoking in public parks

BOSTON (AP) — Lighting up a cigarette in any Boston park, including the iconic Boston Common and Public Garden, may soon draw a $250 fine, which doesn’t sit well with smokers who over the years have seen the places they are allowed to enjoy a cigarette shrink.

The City Council last week approved a ban on smoking cigarettes, marijuana and other “lighted or vaporized” substances at all 251 of the parks, cemeteries and other spaces run by the Boston Parks and Recreation Department. Mayor Tom Menino is expected to sign the measure soon, and then it needs final clearance by the city parks commission, which is expected to approve it next month.

City officials say the ordinance will reduce the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, curb litter and help pressure smokers to kick the habit.

“We’ve been trying to curb the amount of smoking in our parks, which has spiked since colleges, hospitals and many private buildings and other institutions have banned it on their property,” Antonia Pollak, commissioner of the Parks and Recreation Department, told The Boston Globe (http://b.globe.com/1c8wEG0 ). Her staff has seen an increase of cigarette butts discarded in parks. “It’s the unintended consequences that smokers are migrating to the parks,” she said.

Councilor Matt O’Malley said the number of city residents who identify themselves as smokers has fallen from about 25 percent in 2000 to about 16 percent in 2013.

“This will encourage smokers to smoke less,” he said.

Similar ordinances are in place in about 900 other American municipalities.

Massachusetts banned smoking in restaurants, bars and other workplaces in 2004. Since then, the city has prohibited smoking in outdoor areas considered workplaces, such as decks, patios and loading docks used by employees, and the Boston Housing Authority has restricted smoking in public housing.

“If you can’t smoke here, where can you smoke?” Nelson Peguero said Tuesday as he smoked on the Common. “I think it should be our constitutional right to do what we like to do outdoors.”

“Who gives them the right to tell us what to do when we’re outside like this?” Gilbert Farley said as he enjoyed a cigarette on the Common. “The wind blows the smoke away. It shouldn’t bother anyone.”

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Information from: The Boston Globe, http://www.bostonglobe.com

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