Nice Idea, But…

The Derry Town Council has been asked to ban smoking on all of its public properties, including parks and recreational fields.
Concerned about the effects of second-hand smoke, the petitioner to the Council said she had been unwilling to take her children to the swings at Hood Park because a woman was smoking there.
We agree with the science that shows second-hand smoke is harmful, but we have a bit of a problem with imposing laws that don’t lend themselves to enforcement.
A Town Councilor suggested the possibility of a buffer zone for smoking in town parks – prohibiting smoking within a specified number of feet of the playground. That’s a good idea. But how to designate that space on Derry rail trails, bike paths, and the dog park? And more importantly, how to enforce it so that people take it seriously?
We don’t doubt Derry can come up with a way to forbid smoking at its various outdoor locations. We’d next like to hear how the police are going to enforce that ruling, considering there hasn’t been a need thus far to station officers at the dog park or the swing sets.
Would such a law be both well meaning and conducive to public health? Yes, definitely. But will it work? Only if people regulate their own behavior.
In Londonderry, dogs are not permitted on town recreation fields while children are present. The LAFA – Londonderry Athletic and Field Association – website states, “we also respectfully request that people refrain from smoking at the LAFA field complex.” The Londonderry Youth Football and Spirit Field Directory also notes there can be no dogs on the fields or the track.
It makes sense to keep dogs away from youth sports activities, but is that being enforced? Do dogs stray onto the fields? And is that where police funding should be directed?
It’s offensive to have to walk through a cloud of cigarette smoke, and young children – and the rest of us – rightfully should be protected from having to do so. But how to make that enforceable is the heart of the question.
We don’t want self designated citizen enforcers and the potential for escalation into fights. And we surely don’t want an ordinance that can’t be enforced without heightened and costly police presence – and that sets a pattern for disregarding regulations we find inconvenient.
“No Smoking” signs can be posted around the play equipment, and maybe that’s all it will take. We’d like to think so. But more than that? Hiring park and trail monitors? Unlikely.

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