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Others should copy Largo's smoking ban

Smokers might try to act like Largo is doing something outrageous by attempting to ban smoking at city athletic fields, but the city is just riding a trend.

Many professional sports venues, even outdoor ones, now prohibit smoking in the stands. One can hardly argue with the logic of such a ban. Not only is breathing secondhand smoke unhealthy, it also can ruin the game for spectators who have paid high prices for their seats at professional sporting events and are entitled to watch the game without having their senses assaulted by someone's smoke.

Smoking has been banned in some baseball spring training facilities in the Tampa Bay area for several years. And the Pinellas school district bans smoking on its campuses, extending the ban to include football stadiums.

So Largo is not making such a leap with the suggestion, authored by Recreation and Parks Director Cathy Santa, that smoking should not be allowed in the bleachers at the four city athletic fields, which are used for both youth and adult sports.

A number of Pinellas cities are studying the idea of prohibiting smoking at baseball and soccer fields, out of concern for the health of spectators and the example set for young people.

Santa not only was worried about the impact of secondhand smoke on people sitting in the bleachers, she also was frustrated that so many cigarette butts littered the ground after games that it took workers up to an hour to remove them.

It is bad enough that adults, presumably many of them parents, would choose to smoke in full view of children at youth athletic events and while sitting in the bleachers, where children often sit to watch their siblings or parents playing on the fields.

It adds insult to injury that the smokers discarded their butts on the ground and public employees had to spend their time cleaning up the mess.

The Largo City Commission last week gave preliminary approval to the ordinance that would ban smoking in the bleachers at city athletic fields. Under the ordinance, spectators would have to smoke in designated areas and the city could charge organizations for the cost of cleaning up cigarette butts.

The City Commission is scheduled to take a final vote on the ordinance at its meeting Tuesday. Commissioners ought to make the vote unanimous. And other cities considering similar ordinances should follow Largo's lead.

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