Local News

Raleigh Might Snuff Out Smoking in Parks

Posted March 24, 2008 4:50 p.m. EDT
Updated March 24, 2008 11:21 p.m. EDT

— City Council members are considering asking state lawmakers for permission to ban smoking in public parks.

The city's Parks, Recreation and Greenway Advisory Board last week passed a resolution calling for a smoking ban in city-owned parks, and the City Council might review that request next week.

"It's discouraging that we do not have any respect for children playing in the park and adults who do not smoke. It's about second-hand smoke more than it is about smoking itself," said Eugene Weeks, vice chairman of the advisory board.

A parent complained to Mayor Charles Meeker last year about the large number of cigarette butts near the playground at Pullen Park, prompting a study of the problem that culminated in the advisory board's resolution.

Weeks said cigarette butts and other signs of smoking-related trash are easy to find.

"If you already have signs up banning guns, signs banning alcoholic beverages in the parks, what is wrong with us adopting a rule banning smoking in the parks?" he asked.

Councilman Philip Isley said he finds it wrong that the city could impose its will on a person's lifestyle decision of whether to smoke.

"It feels like yet again we're beginning to tread on people's personal preferences. I think we're going a little bit overboard, quite frankly," said Isley, who is still smarting after his unsuccessful attempt to delay the city's new ban on garbage disposals.

Although he doesn't condone smoking, including at city parks, he said it is not the city's place to tel people where outdoors they can or can't light up.

"Are they going to start banning how we cook our food, whether we can use deep-fryers or not? I think (the proposed smoking ban) just goes a little too far," he said.

Under North Carolina law, Raleigh can't approve the smoking ban without legislative approval. A number of anti-smoking measures remained in House and Senate committees last year, and officials said the proposed ordinance could be tacked onto one of them or introduced separately.

If the ordinance passed, it could set a precedent for other municipalities in the state.

"We already have other cities saying, 'Hey, you take the lead on it. We may tack onto your bill,'" Weeks said, calling current laws on public smoking inadequate.