There is nothing worse to many of us than being out in the fresh air and getting a disgusting whiff of cigar or cigarette smoke.

So we’re pleased to see City Councilman Alex Kuhn taking the issue personally and urging the Parks and Recreation Board to restrict smoking in areas where children play.

Actually, we’d like to see smoking banned in every public place, including our parks, but we know that probably won’t happen — at least not in the immediate future. So we’re glad that Kuhn has taken the initiative and gotten the Parks Board involved.

Kuhn is taking the issue personally. He said that during Band Festival weekend he took his two young sons and a friend to a park and was concerned about people smoking near the play areas. He called it a turnoff for him and other families. 

So he took a proposed ordinance to the Park Board last Tuesday, and although he received a bit of a gruff reception, he believes progress has been made on the issue since then.

That reception came when several board members expressed concerns about violating citizen’s rights and enforcement of the ordinance.

We take issue with their claims on individuals’ rights.

No individual, no matter what age, should have his right to breathe clean, non-polluted air violated. There have been countless studies about the ill effects of secondhand smoke, so enough said about that.

We do agree that enforcement would be difficult, given the several hundred acres of beautiful parks in our community. But like with any other community problem, those who are offended could report violators to police, who could check it out given the time and opportunity. We think, though, officers have much better things to do with their time.

Thus the best solution, certainly the best start, is self-enforcement, changing the culture of smokers using our parks so they don’t automatically light up in the presence of others, especially children.

To their credit the Park Board did agree to place “no smoking” signs on shelters and enclosed buildings in all city parks to bring the city into compliance with the 2008 Smokefree Air Act.

Signage is what Kuhn wants to see happen, as outlined in a Guest View on this page.

He points out that goals of promoting community well-being (the object of the Blue Zones program), reducing litter in parks, avoiding the health effects of secondhand smoke and discouraging and reducing youth smoking all are advanced under a smoke-free parks initiative.

Mason City would not be breaking new ground, either, as 15 Iowa communities have specified that all city parks or certain parks identified by name are to be smoke-free. Many others, he said, have designated smoking areas within city parks or have made kids’ play areas smoke-free.

So we're glad to see some agreement on the signage issue and encourage city officials to build on those first steps.

Quoting Kuhn: “When signage is erected to educate parks users of the rules, many people self-correct and most of the public will generally comply.”

We hope he’s right. But for our health and enjoyment of our beautiful parks, it’s time to find out.

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