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Published June 21, 2024

Smoking in parks should be banned

IBy Bruno Bornsztein

I sat on the mall last week reading. It was so nice – just me, my book and the sun-soaked grass. I looked up to take in the scene in all its collegiate splendor. But when I looked back down at the page, I couldn’t make out the letters. Everything was foggy.

I was terrified.

“Cataracts,” I thought. “I knew it. It was bound to happen.” But then a familiar smell surrounded me. Thick and sticky. Even worse than the smell of cataracts.

Cigarettes. Someone’s drifting cigarette smoke was clouding my vision, fouling my air and ruining my grassy Eden.

I looked up, searching, and found her, sitting a few yards away, under a tree. Between puffs I could hear her coarse, gravelly voice as she talked into a cell phone. Rhythmically, she lobbed smoke bombs at me, precision guided by the wind. Direct hits, all of them.

I gasped. I made the international hand symbol for choking. I fell to my side, my hands clutching at the air around me, finding only blades of grass. The book fell to the ground, the pages curling from the hot smoke.

“We’re lost,” I said to the book.

“I know,” it said, longingly, “it wasn’t supposed to be like this.” A cloud passed overhead, the air cooled for a moment.

“Don’t speak,” I said, putting a finger to my lips, “don’t speak.” And then it ended. As I rose to my knees, I could just make out her last, smug, inhale. But air pollution wasn’t enough, so she put her cigarette butt out in the grass. Left it there to get lodged between the toes of some poor barefooted Frisbee geek.

Luckily, my injuries were minor, and my insurance covered the damage to my clothing. In a few days my vision was back to normal. They tell me I will be off the ventilator soon.

Like most smokers, I’m sure this woman is oblivious to the harm she caused. She probably didn’t imagine that her smoke could really be bothering (uh, I mean, injuring) someone.

Nor do most smokers realize that their cigarette-butt littering is just that – littering. For some reason, people who would never think to leave a candy wrapper or Styrofoam cup on the ground have no problem filling the landscape with cigarette butts. Next time you go out, try to count how many of those nasty, dirty little things you see. It’s impossible.

The problem with so many smokers is that they’re inconsiderate. They seem to think their right to smoke outweighs everyone else’s right not to. And sometimes it seems like the fact that I want to sit outdoors and not choke on cigarette smoke just doesn’t matter to them. After all, it’s legal to smoke on the lawn, isn’t it?

Well, it shouldn’t be. Public outdoor spaces, just like public indoor spaces, should be smoke-free.

We have to put up with smoking in bars, coffee shops and bus stops. Why should we have to put up with it at parks?

Bruno Bornsztein is a University CLA junior.

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