(I apologize for the title. I'm tired and not thinking straight.)
You knew it was coming eventually, didn't you? Lincoln Parks and Rec is pondering a smoking ban at parks and along recreational trails. Or perhaps just near playgrounds. Whatever the specifics wind up being, don't be surprised if some sort of smoking restrictions come into play within the next few years.
Those of you who remember my opposition to the city-wide restaurant and bar smoking ban might be surprised to learn that I'm actually somewhat in favor of a Parks & Rec smoking ban. Why the difference? Because parks are truly public spaces, whereas restaurants are private spaces generally (but not entirely) open to the public. The fact that a park is public doesn't mean that the public can do whatever they want while they are there. You can't blare music at rock concert volumes at Hazel Abel Park, for example, because of the effects it has on those around you. Smoking in the vicinity of those who wish to avoid second-hand smoke is comparably obnoxious. It is of course permissible to play music at a reasonable volume without harming others. If there were a way to keep the effects of smoking confined to a personal bubble, I should think it would be less of a problem. Unfortunately air currents tend to be tricky little buggers.
I spend enough time at parks, trails, and ball fields to feel like I have a good sense for how big of a problem this is. In short: we don't need to rush to solve something that's far from a crisis. Most smokers seem to have enough common sense to stay away from places where kids -- well, other peoples' kids -- are hanging around. There are the annoying exceptions, of course, and as with most calls for "There oughtta be a law!" it's those people who get folks all atwitter. This may be a problem worth solving, but it's not such a problem that we need to rush in and do the job poorly.
What do y'all think about smoking in parks and near trails? Is it a problem? Is it enough of a problem that we need new rules (or City ordinances) to solve it?