On July 14, I reported on an article in the Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY), a Dutchess County legislative leader is promoting a smoking ban for all county parks and their parking lots because smoking sets a bad example for children. A similar law being considered in neighboring Ulster County would ban smoking on all county-owned property.
According to the article: "''I just feel there shouldn't be tobacco use in county parks,' said Dutchess County Legislature Majority Leader Sandra Goldberg, who led the Dutchess initiative. Goldberg, D-Wappinger, said the county's parks are intended to be a "family place" and the presence of smokers is not only harmful to those forced to breathe second-hand smoke, but it sets a bad example for children. Nearly the entire Democratic caucus in the county Legislature supports the Dutchess measure, Goldberg said."
This trend of promoting widespread outdoor smoking bans not to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke but to protect nonsmokers from seeing smokers is picking up momentum; yesterday, I reported the implementation of an ordinance in Loma Linda, California which explicitly states its intention is to prevent children from having to see smokers and thus make the city a family-unfriendly place.
The Rest of the Story
In response to this trend and in particular, to the Daily Freeman article, I submitted a letter to the editor which was published in the Daily Freeman on July 22 (page A5).
The newspaper does not appear to publish its letters to the editor online, but here are some excerpts from my letter:
"You reported (July 13) that a Dutchess County legislative leader is promoting a smoking ban for all county parks and their parking lots because smoking sets a bad example fro children.
According to the article, "Dutchess County Legislature Majority Leader Sandra Goldberg, who led the Dutchess initiative ... said the county's parks are intended to be a 'family place' and the presence of smokers is not only harmful to those forced to breath secondhand smoke, but it sets a bad example for children."
We will be in serious trouble when we start outlawing health behaviors in public merely because they set a bad example. Are we going to outlaw eating french fries in public because it sets a bad example to children regarding a healthy diet? Are we going to outlaw severely overweight people from public parks because they set a bad example for children? ...
The danger here is that Goldberg is turning smoking into a moral, rather than strictly a health issue. It is crossing that line from health into morals, with regard to smoking or any other health behavior, that I find unacceptable, inappropriate, and, frankly, dangerous. ...
To argue that smoking needs to be banned on all county property because we need to protect kids from seeing this morally inappropriate behavior is no longer a public health argument. It is a public morality argument and it has no place in this debate."