November 23, 2014
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A ban on outdoor smoking

Though legislation hasn’t been drafted, Mayor Scott Avedisian favors an outdoor smoking ban. We think he’s on to something, and we urge the council to take notice.

Under Avedisian’s proposal, smokers would be able to puff outside, just not in some public places like parks, beaches or sports fields.

A survey released this month by the Rhode Island Department of Health found that a majority of Rhode Islanders (including some smokers) would favor such outdoor smoking bans. More than 80 percent of Rhode Islanders “liked” or “loved” the idea of a smoking ban at beaches, parks, playgrounds, festivals and fairs and in outdoor dining areas.

Although the survey did include non-smokers, former smokers and active smokers alike, only about 11 percent of those surveyed said they were current smokers. Still, smokers, for the most part, echoed their non-smoking counterparts: smoking bans in public places was fine with them, too.

But why ban outdoor smoking? It seems logical to prohibit smoking in enclosed locations, since the dispersion of smoke is limited and second-hand exposure is dangerous. It turns out, the same can be true in outdoor settings. Sure, there is the benefit of wind and fresh air, but second-hand smoke is just as harmful, even outdoors. Studies have found that non-smokers in close proximity to those puffing away can still be affected negatively by the carcinogenic smoke and nicotine. So, it’s a good idea to consider such bans.

Central Falls, Woonsocket and Charlestown have already enacted bans of their own for specific outdoor locations. It only makes sense for Warwick to follow suit, especially for places that children frequently occupy. Prohibiting smoking at playgrounds, beaches, recreational fields and fairs and festivals makes sense; it clears the air and prevents cigarette butt litter. As Dr. Michael Fine, Director of the Health Department, has pointed out, prohibiting outdoor smoking in such places would also crack down on potential fire hazards and would set a good example for kids.

So what are we waiting for? Let’s move to make Warwick a healthier city and set a positive example for the rest of the state to follow.


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