Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

Sometimes good intentions don't make good laws.

Such is the case with a proposed Baker City ordinance that would prohibit people from using tobacco products - including smokeless chewing tobacco - in city-owned parks and recreation areas, including the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway.

The City Council is considering the idea, which was suggested by Benjamin Foster, a student at Eastern Oregon University who's also an intern for City Manager Mike Kee.

We don't think there's any compelling reason to impose such a restriction on an activity that's already banned in most buildings except private homes.

Foster cites surveys showing that a higher percentage of Baker County adults and 11th-graders smoke or use chewing tobacco compared with the Oregon average.

But banning tobacco in parks is not likely to change that.

It's no secret that tobacco can cause cancer and a host of other ailments, after all, and if the threat of an untimely death won't convince people to stop smoking or dipping, neither will the possibility of getting a citation.

But what about people who don't use tobacco but who like to play in the park or take a stroll on the Adler parkway?

They might be annoyed by smokers or snuff-chewers, but there's no evidence that their health is at great risk.

Secondhand smoke is a proven health hazard in buildings and vehicles, but the situation - or more precisely, the ventilation - obviously is quite different outdoors.

Even researchers who have tried to prove that secondhand smoke is dangerous outside buildings or vehicles acknowledge that smoke, and thus the potential effect on non-smokers, dissipates quickly.

Cigarettes and smokeless tobacco can have other byproducts, of course, including butts.

But littering already is prohibited in city parks.

Although we oppose the proposal to ban tobacco use we believe the debate can serve one worthwhile purpose - to remind tobacco users to be respectful to others by picking up their butts and by not soiling public spaces with their spit.