Is smoking in public park a constitutional right? Supreme Court refuses case

Arthur Gallagher, a smoker, challenged a ban on lighting up in city buildings, parks, and playgrounds in Clayton, Mo. The Supreme Court turned away the case Monday.

Michael S. Green/AP/File
In this file photo, a cigarette is extinguished in an ashtray in a downtown Chicago plaza.

The US Supreme Court declined on Monday to take up a case testing whether smokers have a constitutional right to light up in a public park.

The high court turned aside the appeal without comment.

The question arose in a lawsuit filed against the City of Clayton, Mo., and its officials after the Board of Aldermen passed a 2010 ordinance prohibiting smoking in city buildings, parks, and playgrounds.

Arthur Gallagher, a smoker, sued the city and its officials claiming the ban violated a fundamental right to consume ignited tobacco. He said he was a regular visitor to city parks who “ecstatically enjoys smoking tobacco products while doing so.”

A federal judge and a federal appeals-court panel rejected Mr. Gallagher’s lawsuit.

“We decline Gallagher’s invitation to declare smoking a fundamental right,” the three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals said in its decision.

The court also rejected Gallagher’s argument that the city had no rational reason justifying a ban on smoking in an open-air park because secondhand smoke would quickly dissipate. No member of the public could possibly be harmed, Gallagher had insisted.

When the board enacted the ban, it cited public health and safety, litter reduction, and preserving the aesthetics of city property. (The city did not assert a desire to prevent fires as a reason to ban smoking in public buildings and parks, the appeals court noted.)

The board relied on a 1999 National Cancer Institute report that said secondhand smoke is responsible for the early deaths of 53,000 Americans each year, the appeals court said. The board also considered a 2006 report from the US surgeon general that concluded there was no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Gallagher said the reports addressed indoor secondhand smoke, not outdoor secondhand smoke.

The appeals court rejected Gallagher’s argument. To survive the relatively easy standard of rational basis review, the city must only show a plausible reason to justify the new ordinance.

“We need not determine whether outdoor secondhand smoke exposure actually causes harm,” the appeals court said. “Because the City reasonably could believe this to be true, the Ordinance survives rational basis review.”

The case was Gallagher v. City of Clayton (12-1122).

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Is smoking in public park a constitutional right? Supreme Court refuses case
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2013/0513/Is-smoking-in-public-park-a-constitutional-right-Supreme-Court-refuses-case
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe