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Editorial: Newport should ban smoking in parks

July 16, 2011

We generally cringe when government noses its way into civil liberties. But the Newport Beach City Council should go ahead and ban smoking in public parks.

This is a safety issue. Some of the properties considered parks are actually rolling open spaces that make them vulnerable to fires. Other parks were built for children, who shouldn't have their recreation spoiled by smoke.

Then there's litter. We know plenty of smokers are courteous and properly dispose of their butts, but too many aren't, squashing filters on the ground or snuffing them into the sand. Such practices put birds at risk, as well as sea life, because filters so easily blow into the bay, ocean and storm drains.

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Newport is already on the right track. Smokers cannot legally puff on beaches, piers and on the boardwalk, though we've seen plenty of scofflaws, scoffing, er coughing, at the ordinances. Adding parks to the list just makes sense.

The City Council would have likely banned lighting up at parks last week but disagreement moved the decision into the future. Mayor Mike Henn suggested banning smoking at the street ends leading up to the Balboa Peninsula and boardwalk.

We sympathize. We imagine plenty of visitors light up near the homes and apartments off the boardwalk. They should be more courteous.

But banning smoking from the street ends near the boardwalk goes a step too far. The street terminuses are close to the beach and the boardwalk, but we'd argue they are not close enough to justify a ban.

As much as we hate smoking, we can't see barring an adult from having a smoke on a public street or sidewalk. Councilman Keith Curry called the proposed ban on street ends a slippery slope. We agree.

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