Andrew Dys

Smoking ban at Rock Hill parks? City leaders should butt out

The city of Rock Hill might ban smoking in parks, Wednesday’s front page of The Herald proclaimed. The City Council may have a manhunt to find a smoker sneaking a few puffs.

Nonetheless, the city is concerned about a dying habit.

Smokers like me know cigarettes are horrible. We do it anyway. It is legal. It is also socially, in 2016, almost as bad as walking around a city park without wearing pants.

County and city laws pushed smokers away from doorways years ago. York County bars and restaurants were forced to ban smoking. You can look behind any back door at any gin mill and see somebody there sneaking a cigarette, hiding as if he were a criminal. Go to a big chain store or grocery store and look near the back door where the working stiffs grab a smoke, pushed into the shadows.

The Rock Hill VFW that fought the smoking ban even has a special smoking place behind it that has the allure of a stockade.

Look outside the Rock Hill Law Center or the Moss Justice Center in York. One or two smokers, cupping cigarettes in shame as if they were carrying machine guns, grabbing a few puffs away from the doors where they won’t get locked up inside both places, where jail cells are.

Yet if a few City Council people have their way, smoking in city parks will be a crime. Rock Hill hasn’t had such measures worthy of the old Iron Curtain since it threatened to shut off the water to the residents of the Miller Pond subdivision who didn’t want to be annexed into the city a little more than five years ago.

Every news article, every common sense look around, shows smoking is dying off. It also is true that smokers die off, too. Teens smoke far less than their parents did, and the trend has been that way for decades. Smoking costs a fortune. It smells bad.

Yet there must be a crisis if the Rock Hill City Council – which has spent millions on bicycle tracks and a fountain that doesn’t work – wants to ban park smoking. At Rock Hill’s beautiful downtown Fountain Park at lunchtime Wednesday, I went to see the awful crush of smokers.

Nobody was there except one luckless guy making sure nobody went up to the fence that guards the fountain under repair.

I sat on a bench in a part of the park that’s still accessible and lit up a cigarette. I looked around for secret cameras and overworked Rock Hill cops who have murders and mayhem to deal with, yet would be asked to write tickets to smokers.

No cops. No smokers. No anybody.

Just a sign that said the city was working to repair the fountain.

The city’s largest park is Cherry Park. It has shelters and ballfields and more. It’s a great place. Surely there was a smoker making the place a den of vice and iniquity.

I found none Wednesday afternoon. There were a few groups of people with kids.

I drove down Cherry Road, the busy thoroughfare, and saw people in cars smoking. I drove past a store where the owner who sells cigarettes was shot by a gun and had to fight for his life. Turning east onto Main Street, I passed apartments where last week in a nearby parking lot a young man died.

The man did not die by cigarettes. He died by gunshots.

Rock Hill has a problem with guns. The guns are used in killings and shootings – a bunch of them. Yet nobody is proposing a citywide ban on guns. Guns are legal. Guns are lethal. Just like cigarettes.

Yet there is a proposal to ban smoking in parks, and the city might issues tickets for those who smoke near an outfield fence at a ballgame or hidden in a parking lot at a million-dollar bicycle track that, on many days, sits empty.

Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065,; @AndrewDysHerald