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Group lights up on Boston Common to protest park smoking ban

Scents of marijuana and tobacco cut through heavy rain and snow Saturday on Boston Common as a small group gathered to light up in objection to the newly passed smoking ban in the city’s parks.

About a dozen people braved the elements near the Soldier and Sailors Monument at noon to protest the city’s new smoking ban that covers the 251 parks, squares, cemeteries, and other spaces under jurisdiction of the Parks and Recreation Department.

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The ban, which was approved by the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission on Dec. 30, immediately criminalized smoking cigarettes, marijuana, and any other lighted or vaporized substances, including e-cigarettes.

The group in opposition of the ban said it would hold a smoking protest once a month.

“The smoking ban is ridiculous,” said Garret Kirkland, 29, of Winchester. “We have a lot of parks in Boston.”

Kirkland held a cigarette in his hand and an umbrella in the other as rain turned to thick snow.

“They’re saying it’s a public health issue, but there’s plenty of wide-open space,” he said. “Where are you going to go smoke? On the street? Because in between buildings, there’s a lot more people packed in more tightly. Where’s the secondhand issue there? People can be courteous of each other.”

‘There’s plenty of wide-open space. Where are you going to go smoke? On the street? Because in between buildings, there’s a lot more people.’

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Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, spoke in favor of the ban when the commission voted and passed the ordinance in December.

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

During his time as mayor, Thomas M. Menino wrote a letter supporting the ban.

“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,” he wrote while he was mayor.

The City Council approved the ban in November.

The ordinance passed is enforceable by the Boston Police Department and punishable by a fine of $250.

Mike Cann, a protester and longtime activist in his 40s, said he was there to fight that fiscal penalty.

“We don’t agree with this fine; we don’t want people to be stopped and frisked over cannabis,” he said.

Enforcement of the smoking fines will be delayed for several months until there is a public education campaign for the ban, said Jacque Goddard, spokeswoman for the Parks Commission.

“Enforcement would begin late in spring,” she said.

Leftover cigarette butts were also cited in the ordinance passed as “a leading source of litter in Boston’s parks, and pose a nuisance as well as a choking hazard for children.”

“There’s talk of littering,” said Kirkland. “I’m very antilittering. If people want to be stricter on the littering laws and actually hand out tickets for that, good. Take care of our park.”

Milton J. Valencia of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Derek J. Anderson can be reached at
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