Franklin County government, a late convert to the smoke-free movement, now seems determined to make up for lost time. Judge-Executive Ted Collins is touting the county’s Lakeview Park as the first in Kentucky to prohibit outdoor smoking. A dozen signs have been posted around the recreational area on the east side of the county to advise visitors of the new rule.
It was only this spring that Fiscal Court finally broke down and followed the example set by the City Commission six years ago and forbade smoking in most indoor public places. Not everyone agreed with the idea. Magistrates Phillip Kring, Larry Perkins and Lambert Moore dissented in the 4-3 vote, reflecting the sentiment of many county residents that smoking is a right government shouldn’t take away.
Smokers still have the right to use a legal product, in their own homes, private clubs and tobacco warehouse and stores, but most other indoor places are off limits.
This does not mean that no one ever smokes in restricted locations. Everyone knows they do. As a practical matter, it’s up to business owners and managers to decide whether the smoking ban is enforced on their property. Some strictly adhere to the law while others politely look away when employees or customers light up. Neither the city nor the county takes an aggressive enforcement stance. There’s no smoking police. In fact, some of the real police probably resent restrictions on their own tobacco habits.
Nor do we expect county Sheriff Pat Melton to take time away from his war on illegal drugs to track down smokers at Lakeview Park. Signs or not, it’s a good bet plenty of people will keep indulging there. Judy Mattingly, coordinator of the county health department’s Mobilizing for Actions through Planning and Partnerships, told State Journal reporter Kevin Wheatley the outdoor smoking ban is intended to be “self-enforcing.” Which is to say, park patrons who wanted the rule to be respected have the right to point to the signs and challenge violators to comply. The park security guard is also authorized to ask visitors to refrain from smoking.
Even though the county believes its park smoking ban is the first in the commonwealth, it’s certainly not the first rule against outdoor smoking. Signs prohibiting tobacco use near the entrances to both government and business buildings have proliferated. The Frankfort Regional Medical Center was one of the first to set the standard, and the Frankfort Independent school system instituted a campus ban years ago; Franklin County Schools joined last year with a policy that forbids smoking even by parents inside their own cars while stopping by to pick up children.
Including the park in such policies crashes a barrier because some who support smoking bans elsewhere see the great outdoors as a place where individual choice should rule. What they may forget is that Smokey the Bear has warned us for decades of the dangers discarded cigarettes pose to parks and woodlands. In this drought year, especially, no one should smoke where the grass is crispy and stray sparks could ignite dry brush. Not to mention that piles of cigarette butts detract from the natural beauty park patrons desire.
Today’s smokers mostly recognize they’re in the minority and have no wish to offend the majority. Relatively few insist on defying the new restrictions in public buildings. And more and more are coming to the realization that they, too, would be better off kicking the habit and enjoying the simple pleasure of breathing fresh air, indoors and out.