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Parks’ smoking ban taking effect immediately

City joins others with health effort

Cigarette butts littered Boston Common.

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Cigarette butts littered Boston Common.

Put out that butt, or pay up.

The Boston Parks and Recreation Commission approved a smoking ban Monday in city-run parks, immediately making it illegal to smoke cigarettes, marijuana, and other “lighted or vaporized” substances under the penalty of a $250 fine.

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The ban covers the 251 parks, squares, cemeteries, and other spaces run by the Parks and Recreation Department, including Boston Common, the Public Garden, and Franklin Park.

“What this has really done is allowed people to understand that this is another place where smoking isn’t allowed, and there is good reason for that,” said Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, who spoke in favor of the ban before the Parks Commission vote Monday.

“This amendment is necessary to maintain the health and safety of our public parks and ensure that these valuable resources can be enjoyed by all Boston residents,” Mayor Thomas M. Menino said in a letter supporting the ban. The City Council approved the ban in November.

No one spoke in opposition to the ban Monday, officials said.

Jacque Goddard, spokeswoman for the commission, said her department and others will launch an advertising campaign to alert people to the law. The Parks Department will post signs about the ban and the fine, and her department and the Health Commission will pass out informational materials.

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The goal, officials said, is for people to enforce the ban themselves, by alerting others about the new ordinance.

Ultimately, Goddard said, police, who spoke in favor of the ban, and park rangers will enforce the measure. The ban is an expansion of an existing law that prohibited smoking at so-called tot lots.

Six other large US cities have similar bans, including Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, according to the Health Commission. In Massachusetts, 35 municipalities have banned smoking in parks, beaches, or some other public space.

The Health Commission said 86 percent of Boston residents are nonsmokers. “Most of them would really like to be able to make sure the parks are enjoyed by everyone,” Ferrer said.

She noted that the ban prohibits marijuana smoking, which she called a growing concern in city parks. “That’s really made it difficult for families to feel like they can enjoy the same area, the same park,” Ferrer said.

The ban will have obvious benefits for nonsmokers, she said: The US Department of Health and Human Services has found that secondhand smoke causes 3,000 deaths a year from lung cancer nationwide, and 46,000 deaths from heart disease.

“Secondhand smoke in any concentration is dangerous,” Ferrer said. “There’s no safe level of exposure.”

She also said that such bans could dissuade others, particularly teenagers, from lighting up.

“It makes it less normal for smoking to happen around you,” she said.

Milton J. Valencia
can be reached at mvalencia@globe.com.
Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.
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