City Council Votes to Ban Smoking In All of Boston’s Public Parks

The proposal was sponsored by the mayor himself.

Cigarette photo via

Cigarette photo via

The city is waiting on the signature of Mayor Tom Menino before officially banning people from smoking cigarettes and marijuana in all of Boston’s public parks.

During a hearing yesterday, the City Council voted in favor of the ban, which would force those who break the law to cough up $250 in fines every time they are caught lighting up where they are not supposed to. “The intent of the regulation is to protect Boston’s parks, and to ensure that Boston’s parks and recreational places are safe, clean, and healthy for all residents,” said Councilor Matt O’Malley, chairman of the Committee on Government Operations.

O’Malley put the legislation before the full council on Wednesday, following a public hearing a day prior, where he said no one spoke in opposition of the idea.

Once approved by Menino, and officials from the Parks Department, anyone caught smoking cigars, cigarettes, pipes, or “other lighted or vaporized substances,” in places operated and controlled by the city, would be subject to the hefty fines.

The ban—the brainchild of several city agencies, including the Public Health Commission and Parks Department—would update an existing law which keeps people from smoking at parks specifically for children, by inserting a subsection to cover all of the public areas overseen by the city. The law, once signed, will be enforced by park rangers and the Boston Police Department, according to O’Malley.

“This is something this body has talked about before,” O’Malley said. “This is something cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth have been doing. This is not a new thing…it’s a public health issue…this is the right thing to do.”

He said Boston will “again lead the way,” referencing Menino’s initiative to curb smoking in bars and restaurants during his time in office. The ban will extend to cemeteries, parks, golf courses, and other areas that are public space. “It doesn’t ban smoking outside, it’s just simply in parks,” O’Malley said.

Dot Joyce, spokesperson from Menino’s office, said this has been in the works in some form since medical marijuana was legalized. “[The city] has been studying the issue since the marijuana law passed. It makes sense to protect and help all individuals using our public parks, and to be able to allow them to have the ability to breathe fresh air without concern for either marijuana smoke or cigarette smoke,” she said.

The proposal stems from an idea put out there by Councilor Bill Linehan last August, which would have held pot-smokers accountable for lighting up in parks like Boston Common by raising the cost of a citation to $200.

On Wednesday, Linehan commended the city council, and Menino’s administration, for improving his original proposal and moving forward with a new angle. “I’ll be supporting this,” he said.

  • Mike Cann

    Us smokers we are unsafe for Boston! Wow. Nice piece of bigotry from City Councilor O’Malley….Having a cop harass me over a smoke doesnt make us safer. It makes you a bigot O’Malley.

  • massvocals

    here again , reps engaging in attacks on the people rights consideration to number of citizen who smoke in the park . Matters not lame duck mayor signs or not ” right now in this nisi moment ” …it must be met with a protest and march to the state house in great numbers in my opinion .

    • AW

      I would like to protest this.
      Smokers are not villains. The popular image of ‘the smoker’ in the mind of the non-smoker does not match the whole reality. So many of us are kind, polite, responsible, clean. And we know how to relax, I might add..

  • massvocals

    please announce !!!! Boycott on the city, don’t buy or patronize , in Boston what so ever

  • Vape Escape

    Still going to smoke all I want at the Freedom Rally… and any other time I want to outdoors. Give me a ticket? I give you a fake name and address. PoPo’s can’t search you for a civil violation. This means “sorry, I left my ID at home.”


    I was recently at a park with my kids. They were playing on the equipment and I was standing nearby watching them. A young man approached with his two young children and they joined my kids in play. The young man then lit a cigarette and proceeded to smoke near our children and myself. I tried very nicely to ask him to move away from the area and he got combative! Yes, you are outdoors, but the smoke does not dissipate as well as you think! If laws are needed for you to respect my airspace, then so be it!

    • Joe Reaves

      they’re banning e-cigs, too.

    • Alberto Nicotra

      I see what you mean. Not all smokers are polite people too. I used to smoke in such a way (like looking at the wind direction) that I caused no grief to anybody, but that’s me.

    • Ratko

      your “airspace?” I didn’t know we could take claim to oxygen

  • TheInvisibleHand

    Prohibitionism. When tobacco is finally outlawed and a black market develops, violence and death will come with it. God forbid, if my child died at the hands of black marketeers over TOBACCO I would be looking for all the politicians who helped criminalize tobacco and would make them pay…

  • stormbell

    Tobacco cigarette park ban is ridiculous enough, but e-cigarettes as well, what are *they* smoking to make up rules like this.

  • BabaO`Riley

    What a joke. This isn’t america.

  • Beverley Strain

    $250 for smoking in a park.
    $100 for driving while texting/talking on a cell phone.

    Pretty f***** up.

  • Jessica Michael

    Why do I have to pay ridiculous taxes on tobacco in this state when I cant smoke anywhere!

  • Bill Godshall

    Despite no evidence that e-cigarette vapor has ever harmed any e-cig user or nonuser, Boston City Council absurdly banned the use of smokefree e-cigs (which have helped several million smokers quit smoking) in parks.

    What’s next, banning fat people, and those with tattoos or body piercings (as some intolerant puritans in Boston don’t approve of those things either)?

    At least these Puritans aren’t burning people at the stake (after falsely accusing them of being witches) any more, like they did several hundred years ago just south of Boston.

  • Alberto Nicotra

    The precautionary principle would mandate that unless proven otherwise also e-cig should be banned. I think many smokers quit in spite of it.

    I quit smoking cold turkey a while ago ( for many reasons, including the unfairness with which the State/non-smokers deal with smokers.

    No conspiracy, but banning smoking in a public place, open air, perhaps to save on cleaning and earning extra fines is a little bit over the top, even allowing for the negative spillover effects on the health of non-smokers.