Butts are the best reason to implement ban

Editorial

Our View

July 14, 2011

County Executive Ken Ulman's plan to ban smoking in county parks might seem like overkill, but there are practical reasons for it beyond the debatable effects of secondhand smoke in the great outdoors.

Many smokers feel as if they're a persecuted minority as the places where they may practice their habit vanish one by one. First offices and stores became no-smoking zones, then restaurants, then bars. Those locales, though, are all enclosed spaces, and smoking in them presents real and measurable health implications even for those who aren't smoking.

A ban on outdoor use of tobacco, however, strikes even many nonsmokers as beyond the pale. As distasteful as the habit is to many of us, in most cases the smoking itself is at worst a minor irritant outside.

It's what's left over when many smokers have finished puffing that is the more imporant problem here.

The Baltimore Sun quotes county Health Officer Peter Beilenson as saying that cigarette butts are a "sizable percentage of the stuff picked up in the park," creating a headache for the crews trying to keep parkland clean, and noted that they can also be dangerous to wildlife who eat them.

We would also note that, especially under dry conditions, discarded butts present a fire hazard.

Discouraging smoking wherever possible is never a bad idea, but preserving and protecting the park — not the public-health aspect — is the most compelling reason for this ban.

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