Editorial: Smoking ban is a stretch, but restrictions make sense

<p>Part of the role of a town selectman is to advocate on the behalf of town residents. So when a Middlebury woman approached selectman Craig Bingham and complained that smokers at a public event at a Middlebury park had caused her kids to breathe smoke from their cigarettes or move, Bingham dutifully took the problem to the selectboard with a proposed solution: ban smoking in all town parks. </p><p>One of the roles of the selectboard is to reign in suggestions that are likely to cause friction without effectively solving the perceived problem. This is one of those times.</p><p>While Bingham’s suggestion can certainly be seconded by all who have endured cigarette smoke in crowded public out spaces, to ban smoking in outdoor parks is draconian by almost any measure because it punishes those smokers even when others are not around. </p><p>We are no fans of smoking cigarettes (it’s bad for your lungs, stinks on your breath and clothes, and annoys others in public spaces), but, hey, as long as smoking is legal, those residents have a legitimate expectation to be allowed to smoke in situations where they are not bothering others. </p><p>And from a practical consideration, imposing a $25 fine for smoking in a town park and asking town police to enforce the ban is simply a poor use of the police department’s time and resources. </p><p>On the other hand, placing a smoke-free ban during public events on town property (the Festival on-the-Green is one event that could benefit from this suggestion) via a permit is an excellent idea. In fact, it hardly needs to be required as many smokers are well aware that others are bothered by second-hand smoke and do their best to avoid causing any problems. There are always a few smokers who aren’t as aware, however, and attaching a smoke-free ban to permits would give those in charge of each event the opportunity to make an announcement at the start of events (right along with turning off cell phones) as a reminder of the event’s protocols.</p><p>It’s really all about being a good neighbor, and this is a suggested measure that provides a mechanism to remind folks to be just that.</p>

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Addison County Independent

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Middlebury, VT 05753

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