These days, smokers everywhere are getting used to having to step outside to light up. But what if you can’t even do that? In Ayer, Massachusetts, smoking is no longer permitted in the city’s parks, thanks to the efforts of Jason Mayo, a member of the Ayer parks and recreation committee. After watching a father blow smoke in his child’s face as he pushed him on a swing, Mayo decided the ban was needed. “We can’t tell people how to parent,” he said, “but all the other kids around him were inhaling that cigarette too.”
Ayer is not alone in its banning of cigarettes. Other towns in the state and elsewhere — including my native San Francisco — have similar rules. It’s not just about second-hand smoke nor are the bans an attempt to stop people from smoking at all. In addition to the smell and health issues of the smoke, there is the problem of toxic litter. Even after the ban here was enacted, Cigarette butts still cover playgrounds, offering small children a deadly snack. “I’m not interested in fining people, I’m not interested in stopping smoking, nor do I see us making gobs of money off this,” said parks and recreation committee chairman Tim Taylor. “I just don’t want to see cigarette butts all over the ground.”
Personally, I completely support such bans. If you want to breathe carbon monoxide and stink up your clothes, that’s your prerogative as an adult. Kids, however, need protection and it is a big part of the government’s job to make sure they are safe. As Jason Mayo put it, “when kids are involved, it becomes more of an issue for me.” I couldn’t agree more.