Thursday, August 11, 2005

Buffalo Grove (IL) and Greenville (TX) Ban Smoking in Parks

The Greenville (TX) City Council approved an ordinance Tuesday that bans smoking in all of the city's parks, except for the municipal golf course and parking lots. This action is on the heels of the Buffalo Grove (IL) Park District Board of Commissioners' decision to ban smoking on all park district property.

Smokers who violate the Greenville ordinance will be charged with a misdemeanor - a criminal charge - and would then face conviction proceedings, which could ultimately result in up to a $500 fine. Violations of the Buffalo Grove rule would face only a civil charge, which could result in a fine of between $25 and $100.

Buffalo Grove previously had a rule that banned smoking within buildings on park property and within 20 feet of the entrance to these buildings. But the new rule extends the old one so that people who wish to smoke will have to leave park property entirely: "Park District Executive Director Michael Rylko agreed that in some situations enforcing the smoking ban could be difficult, such as when people step outside the Alcott Center to smoke. The current rule prohibits smoking within 20 feet of the entrance to Alcott, at 530 Bernard Drive, and other park buildings. But Rylko said he still frequently sees 'three or four senior ladies puffing on their weed. When I tell them they can't smoke (even outside the Alcott building or in the parking lot), they are going to go crazy,' Rylko said. 'What do I do, call 911?'"

The Rest of the Story

I don't see secondhand smoke exposure as such a serious health threat that banning smoking in outdoors, non-enclosed areas where people are not contained in a particular area is warranted. Certainly, smoking in parking lots is not a severe health hazard that deserves attention from public health practitioners. And I just don't see how those three or four senior ladies puffing on cigarettes outside the Alcott building represent a serious enough threat to the public's health to warrant government intrusion of this nature.

But the absurdity of this story is evidenced in the inconsistency of these actions as public policy. In Greenville, if you smoke in a remote areas of a park with no one around, you have committed a crime and could potentially enter into the criminal justice system, requiring criminal proceedings and using up valuable court time. But if you smoke on a crowded golf course, no problem. Even worse, if you smoke in a bar or restaurant where you are actually exposing workers to high levels of carcinogens, that's also not viewed as a problem worthy of government intervention. Only non-golf course outdoor parks are apparently viewed as a health threat that needs attention. This is an absurd approach to public health policy!

The same is true of Buffalo Grove's policy. That town apparently does not see a need to protect bar and restaurant workers from exposure to high levels of secondhand smoke, but it does see a need to prevent the severe health threat posed by three or four seniors puffing meekly on their cigarettes outside the Alcott Center.

The word absurd is defined as "ridiculously unreasonable, unsound, or incongruous" and "having no rational or orderly relationship to human life." The recent actions of Buffalo Grove, Illinois and Greenville, Texas fit this defnition to a tee.


Bill Godshall said...

Many municipal parks have also banned alcohol, while smoking pot, being naked or masturbating have long been prohibited in municipal parks (as well as other places).

Instead of comparing smoking prohibitions to your subjectivity,
I suggest it would be more objective to compare them to the many other prohitions and restrictions that are already in place.

Secondhand cigarette smoke in an outdoor park poses about the same health risks to others as does drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana (i.e. little hazard). Meanwhile, being naked or masterbating pose no hazards to others. But these already illegal activities result in far more punitive sanctions than a $25 - $100 fine.

And if cigarette smoking is permitted in parks (where children frequent), wouldn't it be logical to allow cigarette smoking on K-12 school grounds (where children also frequent)?

And if its OK for children to be exposed to people smoking cigarettes on school property, perhaps cigarette advertisements should be allowed back on children's television shows.

Of course I'm being sarcastic, but there are far more unwarranted government intrusions on personal behavior in public than bans on smoking cigarettes.

Just try walking naked with an open can of beer while smoking a joint on a sidewalk in any city
or town.

Bobert said...

"there are far more unwarranted government intrusions on personal behavior in public than bans on smoking cigarettes."

Again, Bill's argument boils down to two wrongs making a right.

Clarence Darrow made a profound remark when he said "You can protect your liberties in this world only by protecting the other man's freedom. You can be free only if I am free."

One day I was driving home from work, and was detained and falsely written up for failing to wear my seatbelt. When the law was first proposed, I was overwelmingly in favor of it, and voted as such. This day, the only crime I committed was being the wrong race in the wrong neighborhood. Had there not been a seatbelt law, it might have been something else, but it wouldn't have been as easy for the officer to dispell.

This simple "do good" law provided the vehicle for an abuse of power and the violation of my civil rights. When I cast my vote to limit others freedom, I, in effect sacrificed my own.

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences. C.S. Lewis

When Bill shelters children from seeing people smoke, he misses an opertunity to educate them on the dangers of such. It is no wonder so many college kids take up smoking. RJR doesn't need Joe Camel when they have people like Bill around.

New smoking among children was the highest in recent years after it was made taboo.

Maybe there's some truth to the wivestales about the preachers daughters after all.

"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evilminded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding."
— Justice Louis D. Brandeis dissenting,Olmstead v. United States

Bill Godshall said...

Bobert conveniently fails to acknowledge that neither the US Constitution, nor any State Constitution, consider cigarette smoking a protected right.

Garnet Dawn said...

Bobert does not need to acknowledge "that neither the US Constitution, nor any State Constitution, consider cigarette smoking a protected right".

Smoke haters and smoking ban proponents are not protected by non-smoking rights either, because the Bill of Rights (ninth amendment) states that "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." We are equal, as it should be, and Free Market and private property rights should prevail.

Fortunately, the creators of our Constitution and Bill of Rights anticipated that not every individual right could be itemized and anticipated at that time. Therefore, to avoid oversights, the ninth amendment was created.

Hence, our rights revert to the Fifth Amendment and "Nor shall any deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

Garnet Dawn