After a nudge from a former member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, the city is considering a smoking ban for its 1,650-acre park system.

Advisory Board member Chuck Tinant got the ball rolling after he recently was asked by Jeff Schild if the city was pursuing the smoking ban. A young daughter of Schild, who now lives in Bismarck, N.D., was apparently exposed to secondhand smoke last year in a park while he was the advisory board president.

Tinant told the Rapid City Journal that he too supports the smoking ban, pointing out this is a public health issue and that young children in particular deserve a smoke-free environment while enjoying city parks.

The proposal comes at a time when smoking bans in city parks are spreading like wildfire across the nation. According to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, more than 1,000 communities have instituted bans or designated smoke-free parks, and a Google search shows many other municipalities are considering similar actions at this time.

Three questions, however, come to mind almost immediately when the proposed smoking ban is discussed.

First, is it even enforceable and, if not, why bother? Secondly, is this a problem in an expansive park system where it is not difficult to find a quiet spot? Third, would this put Rapid City on the slippery slope of becoming a nanny state of sorts?

Advisory Board member Karen Gundersen Olson addressed the enforcement issue when she said, “We don’t want our police walking around the parks giving out tickets for smoking.”

Olson makes a good point. The city’s parks already have a leash law for dogs that seems to be rarely enforced at best. So why add another ordinance that could only be selectively enforced?

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It also is unclear if smokers are creating problems at parks. The only complaint that has been publicized to date was initiated by someone who no longer lives in Rapid City.

Cigarette smoking is not to be condoned as those who chose to indulge in this habit are exposing themselves to serious health risks. It is not, however, a city’s job to craft ordinances that make statements or fulfill someone’s personal agenda.

New ordinances should only be approved after it is demonstrated that a need exists for them. Absent that, the laws become nothing more than government looking down its nose and telling people how to live their lives, which is a direct contradiction to how we represent ourselves in western South Dakota.

If those who support this measure can point to reasons beyond possibly exposing a child to secondhand smoke, then and only then does this measure merit serious consideration of local elected officials.

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