Editorial: Yes to no smoking in parks

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 8, 2006

Sitting along the shore of Fountain Lake at Edgewater Park watching the Bayside Skiers perform feats of daring-do on their waterskis is one of many enjoyable family activities in Albert Lea parks.

Sitting along the shore of Fountain Lake at Edgewater Park breathing a stranger&8217;s exhaled cigarette smoke can ruin the experience, preventing families &8212; especially ones who want to keep smoking away from children &8212; from going to the parks.

Some smokers understand that their habit is nasty and they try to respect the clean air others desire to breath. Often, these smokers favor bans on smoking and see them as a means to encourage quitting.

The smokers who ardently oppose bans usually are the same ones who just simply don&8217;t get how their smoke affects other people. They aren&8217;t able to ever quit smoking long enough to clear out their system and enjoy the clean air and wonderful smells that are all around us.

Parks are places for people of all ages to relax and enjoy company in a scenic setting. We work hard, and we need places of relaxation. We need fresh air.

Some city politicians are worried about the smell from skunks in Albert Lea. Yes, skunks stink. But people encounter the foul odor of cigarette smoke more commonly than skunks. It could be argued the city skipped a more important issue on its way to addressing a lesser one.

However, we were pleased to see the Parks Advisory Board bring up the subject of smoke-free parks and park facilities. It is part of the statewide Tobacco-Free Youth Recreation initiative. So far, 59 cities in greater Minnesota have mandated smoke-free parks, including Austin, and 28 metropolitan areas have, too. The Parks Advisory Board will take up the matter again at 5:15 p.m. Sept. 18.

When we relax, we often do so by spending time with children and other loved ones. It is unfair to expose our children to smoke or to set poor examples by smoking in front of children.

One policy under consideration is smoke-free all the time, and another is smoke-free only during youth activities. We argue in favor of smoke-free all the time.

First of all, the health of adults matters, too. Second, what if a child plays at a park playground but not during a &8220;youth activity&8221;? Is it OK for kids to breath secondhand smoke sometimes but not others? Third, smoke-free all the time would help police prevent teen smoking, which often occurs in parks.

Albert Lea has a great parks system. A smoke-free parks system would make it even greater.