O’Malley backs new ban on smoking in parks

The City Council last month passed legislation that bans smoking in City’s parks. The measure was introduced by Mayor Thomas Menino and steered out of City Councilor Matt O’Malley’s Committee on Government Operations.

“I think it is a great idea and a great piece of legislation,” said O’Malley, who lives in and represents Jamaica Plain.

The legislation bans smoking not only in parks, but all property controlled by the Parks and Recreation Department. The fine for violators is $250.

O’Malley held a public hearing on the legislation on Nov. 19 and the City Council approved it the next day. The bill now awaits the mayor’s signature and will then head to the Boston Parks and Recreation Commission for approval.

O’Malley said there are three main reasons he supports the ban: the affect smoking has on public health, such as second-hand smoke; the littering of cigarette butts in parks; and it encourages people to smoke less.

Banning smoking in City parks first came to the public attention in August when City Councilor Bill Linehan proposed a measure banning smoking marijuana in parks. The general perception was that that was an attempt to stop the Freedom Rally, also called the Hempfest, where people gather on the Boston Common to advocate the reform of marijuana laws and frequently smoke the drug.

When the Gazette asked about the possible effect on the Hempfest, O’Malley responded that he is in favor on the festival continuing, as long as there is no smoking. When the Gazette noted that is a large part of the festival, O’Malley replied, “I don’t think there should be any smoking in parks or playgrounds.”

O’Malley said the right to smoke in a park is not a civil liberty, as it is not listed in the Constitution.

The Gazette asked O’Malley if the littering reason was not redundant, as there is already a law banning littering. The councilor agreed that it is redundant. But, he said, that “doesn’t mean we can’t do more” to stop the littering of cigarette butts.

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