Friday, August 13, 2010

Middletown Smokers Who Light Up in a Park Could Face Jail Time

A new ordinance enacted by the Middletown (New York) City Council makes smoking in a park a potentially criminal offense that could result in jail time, according to an article in the Times Herald-Record.

According to the article: "Middletown voted to ban smoking in two parks and 30 feet from any city playground on Monday. The City of Kingston prohibits smoking outside City Hall, and Port Jervis and Tuxedo forbid smoking in their parks and playgrounds. Middletown's new law includes fines of up to $150 and jail time for repeat offenders, and it passed without a single person speaking against it at Monday's meeting."

In the article, I am quoted and present an opposing viewpoint: "But Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University's School of Public Health and an anti-smoking activist, is concerned that some overzealous groups could damage the credibility of legitimate efforts to protect people from second-hand smoke. Siegel said the intent of Middletown's ban was reasonable, but he added that imposing jail time would enforce a criminal penalty on an offense that only rises to the level of a parking violation. 'We should always base policy on scientific evidence of adverse health effects,' he said. 'Anything beyond that and (smoking restrictions) become an ideology.'"

The Rest of the Story

I can just see the conversation going on between the chief warden of the Middletown jail and the city department that produces signs:

Warden: I'd like to order the signs for the different sections of our prison facility.
Sign Maker: Sure, how many do you need?
Warden: A total of five.
Sign Maker: No problem. What should the first one say?
Warden: Murderers.
Sign Maker: OK. The second?
Warden: Sexual offenders.
Sign Maker: No problem. The third?
Warden: Burglars.
Sign Maker: The fourth?
Warden: Assaulters and Batterers.
Sign Maker: And the fifth?
Warden: Smokers who lit up in a park.
Sign Maker: Excuse me. Could you repeat that?
Warden: Smokers who lit up in a park.
Sign Maker: I think there's a problem with our phone connection. Could you call me back from a land line?

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