For now, smokers watching their children at city playgrounds can step away and light a cigarette. But that may soon be illegal.
The City Council is considering a ban on smoking in all parks — an extension of the current ban at playgrounds and pools. It would mean smokers must walk out to the road to smoke — or wait.
“We shouldn’t have smoking in the parks, because the parks are someplace to go for your health and well-being,” said Councilwoman Barbara Blanchard.
Other council members have discussed setting up smoking areas in the parks but the current legislation doesn’t allow for it. Blanchard said it’s not needed.
“Your house can be a designated smoking area,” she said.
At least one smoker thinks the ban is a good idea.
Commissioner of General Services Carl Olsen, who smokes, has watched as more and more places are closed to him. But he’s also noticed that fewer people are smoking.
“The more deterrence, the more people will quit. Maybe I’ll be one of them,” he said.
He once quit for 41⁄2 years before giving in to temptation. Having to keep the cigarettes in his pocket at the parks might be enough to push him back to the smoke-free life, he said.
“Smoking is a nasty habit, and no one should do it. The more difficult they make it, the more expensive they make it, the more people will quit,” he said. “I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, I’ll tell you that.”
Park smoking bans are becoming more common. The village of Scotia and towns of Glenville, Niskayuna and Rotterdam all ban smoking in their parks.
Blanchard said she called for a city park smoking ban after learning about the suburban bans.
“I was embarrassed,” she said. “We should be in the vanguard of this movement.”
She added that she’s not moved by smokers who say it’s unfair that they can’t use the park while enjoying a smoke.
“Smoking is not good for your health anyway so that’s not a valid argument,” she said. “This will be one more reason to fight it.”
Just don’t expect police officers to enforce the ban. Blanchard acknowledged that the police are busy and are unlikely to have time for smoking patrols.
Instead, she said, residents will have to enforce the rule themselves by asking smokers to stop.
“I think that many people would do that,” she said.
Olsen agreed. A posted sign will deter most people, he said.