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January 6, 2013 | Back to: Opinion

Editorial: Laws restricting smoking make a matchless blessing

Readers old enough to remember tobacco TV commercials probably can warble along with the slogan “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.”

The industry journal Advertising Age in 1999 ranked it eighth-best of all jingles airing on radio and television in the 20th century. No doubt its success helped R.J. Reynolds company executives cough all the way to the bank.

Given that history, there’s a certain satisfaction to be derived from a city of Winston policy set to go into to effect Jan. 17. The City Council last month agreed to restrict smoking in each of Winston’s three parks. The action was in response to a recommendation from the city’s Park Board.

Beginning next week, Riverbend, Community and Civic Wayside parks will have smoking areas marked with signs. Containers will be provided for cigarette butts. Smoking anywhere except in those designated spots will be prohibited.

Some will say that the legislation doesn’t go far enough. Two years ago, Roseburg prohibited the use of all tobacco products at its parks. One city staff member has said the ban has been well received and is also observed by park users.

In Winston, city officials pondered such a ban. They also took input from area residents and others attending public meetings in which potential policies were discussed. Mayor Sharon Harrison said later that 98 percent of those expressing opinions joined councilors in frowning on a ban, but embracing the restriction represented by the smoking areas.

Whether you applaud the city for respecting the wishes of the populace or wish councilors had taken a bolder step, it’s clear that thought and care were taken in crafting the law. The six smoking areas within the three parks will be apart from playgrounds, but in view of them, so parents with cigarettes don’t get nervous about losing sight of their children.

Councilors didn’t want to burden police with chasing down illegal puffers. Residents and other park users instead will be asked to point out smoking areas to those who aren’t taking advantage of them. It’s hard to say how well that will work, but it makes sense to use patrol officers for more pressing concerns.

Any effort to discourage smoking is worthy. As The News-Review reported at the end of December, tobacco use is the leading cause of health problems among Douglas County residents. Eighteen percent of Oregonians smoke, but more than a quarter of county residents light up regularly.

In an executive order Gov. John Kitzhaber signed in August forbidding most state employees to smoke at work, he stated that their tobacco use costs the state more than $13 million annually, and that’s a conservative estimate. We don’t know how much Douglas County’s smokers cost us as a result of their collective habit.

But at least one of us has seen the effects of end-stage emphysema. Any step that helps prevent its ravages is one worth taking.

We encourage other Oregon cities within and outside county borders to consider enacting more laws that result in less cigarette smoke wafting in public places, especially where children are present. That would be a nice move from a state with a capital named Salem.

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The News-Review Updated Jan 8, 2013 10:29AM Published Jan 8, 2013 10:24AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.