It's a little bit difficult to know what to make of the policy the Rosemount City Council approved this week to restrict smoking in city parks.
On one hand, it's hard to argue smoking is a bad habit. And anything that discourages people from taking it up -- or encourages them to quit -- is a good thing. In that light, the council's attempts to limit smoking at events meant for children could be considered admirable.
On the other hand, when you get right down to it the policy approved Tuesday doesn't really do anything. It's targeted at youth events, not adult. So the weeknight softball league is safe from a crackdown on tobacco. It's also entirely voluntary. No police officers are going to force you to put out your cigarette if they catch you lighting up while you watch your son play soccer or your daughter play t-ball.
In other words, the signs that will go up soon at city parks will read, in essence, "We'd really rather you didn't smoke when kids are around." That's about the extent of the teeth in the policy.
Again, it's not a bad sentiment. We're just not sure it's going to accomplish anything.
For the record, we were against this proposed ban in May when Rosemount High School students first brought it to the city's parks and recreation board. We didn't like the idea of putting yet another area off limits to smokers -- and in this case an open area where secondhand smoke should be a minimal concern at most. We also didn't believe such a ban could be enforced, something council members also appear to have decided was the case.
Ultimately, maybe it's best to take this policy for what it is: A well-meaning gesture that ultimately doesn't amount to much. Maybe the effort will discourage a few people from lighting up, though we have our doubts.
As long as the city doesn't have to pay for the signs out of its own budget, though, what's the harm in trying?