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

The proposal was sponsored by the mayor himself.

By Steve Annear | Boston Daily |
Cigarette photo via Shutterstock.com

Cigarette photo via Shutterstock.com

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.

Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2013/11/21/boston-smoking-public-parks-ban/