Smokers puffing within Baltimore City limits have roughly six months left to enjoy their nicotine rush while on playgrounds, schoolyards, and city athletic fields. If Baltimore City council members have their way, with a bill banning the use of tobacco products in these venues, the air will clear. With the Councilman William H. Cole IV’s bill co-sponsored by the entire 15-member council, smoke free public spaces are a fait accompli.

“Some people smoke in front of their kids, and that’s their right to do so. But it’s not their right to smoke in front of someone else’s kid, and that’s where I think we’ve had the problem. Some people just aren’t able to use common sense,” said the District 11 Councilman who started the initiative. “The law I’ve written calls for no smoking within 50 feet of a playground, an athletic field, or a playground attached to a school.”

Cole began investigating the issue, he said, when several concerned citizens approached him at a council meeting last year. They were upset that parents and teen smokers using playgrounds as hangout spots were subjecting everyone who used the city’s public spaces to their toxins of choice.

“There is no risk-free level of second-hand smoke, there is no safe level of second-hand smoke,” said Brian King, senior scientific advisor with the CDC’s Office of Smoking and Health. “Whether it’s an indoor or an outdoor area, exposure to the smoke from burning tobacco products is hazardous to health.”

King said that adults exposed to second-hand smoke have an increased risk of lung cancer and heart disease. Among youth, second-hand smoke can be linked to multiple different adverse health effects including middle ear disease, respiratory disease, and even asthma.

“Second-hand smoke is really a dangerous mix of multiple different chemicals and toxins,” said King. “There are several thousand toxins in second-hand smoke and there also at least 70 cancer causing agents. It’s no wonder that exposure to it can cause significant disease and death. It’s a lethal cocktail.”

King told the AFRO that even a small amount of second-hand smoke could begin the mutation of cells in the body and cause them to multiply out of control, becoming cancerous.

Pequannock, NJ, New York City and others have already enacted similar legislation regarding the lighting of tobacco products on playgrounds or places where children might congregate. Cole was surprised to discover Baltimore City currently has no law regarding smoking on playgrounds, especially because both Oriole Park and M&T Bank Stadium have recently banned smoking on their premises, showing that the issue is gaining support.

The measure will become law within six months after the vote, to provide the Department of Recreation and Parks sufficient time to install signs informing smokers of the change.


Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer