An Issue With Smoking

Rachel Gibson

I don't smoke but I overheard something the other day that piqued my interest about smoking at Nationals Park. A gentleman at the ballpark was showing his friend the smoking areas on the stadium map and laughing about the unfortunate location of one of them ... right behind the children's jungle gym.

This concerned me a little so last night I investigated.

I think parents can rest easy because the smoking area outside the right field gate is actually down a flight of steps, outside the gates, and not easily seen from the jungle gym. The map looks worse than it is.

What does concern me, though, is how bad the accommodations are for smokers. Not because I smoke or because I sympathize much for smokers (except mom and dad; cue nasty comments below).

There are two designated areas in the park where both fans and ballpark employees must smoke. Just two. And both areas are outside the park in small, fenced-in areas.

The first is at the right field gate, which is not an entrance gate. You can only exit the park or smoke from this gate. The other is outside the third base gate. To have a smoke, you must first check with the guard who gives you a wrist band. No wrist band and you're not coming back in. If you're an employee on a smoke break and don't have your ID with you, you're not coming back in, either.

I am not a fan of cigarette smoke; the farther away from me the better. But even I was surprised at how marginalized and banished these areas seemed. Either spot could be a serious trek from the upper decks. Or some lower decks for that matter. The areas are small and quite removed from the action; no TVs or concourse views to see the game or the scoreboard. Yesterday, the third base gate smoking area didn't even have ashtrays.

Which brings me to my overall point. The more unpleasant and inconvenient you make it for smokers, the more likely they'll seek comfort elsewhere. Like the ladies room behind section 204, for instance.

Sure enough, after the game, and after I'd already planned to write about the smoking scene, my story was baptized with the cigarette smoke from two stalls down.

Surely better smoking accommodations could benefit all of us.

By Rachel Gibson  |  April 10, 2008; 10:08 AM ET  | Category:  Rachel Gibson
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I think it is fantastic that smoking is not convenient at nte ballpark. I cannot stand the smell of cigarette smoke. Now if we could only keep the smokers from coming back to their seats smelling of stale smoke...

Posted by: Anonymous | April 10, 2008 11:06 AM

I just wish we could ban beer-drinking.

Every complaint anyone can raise against cigarette-smoking [except laccidentally lightin my hair on fire] I can aim at beer drinkers.

Hate 'em

Posted by: Scoreboard S | April 10, 2008 11:40 AM

I'm pretty sure there will be some civil disobedience on this issue. I've seen a ton of people light up, uninterrupted in the left field bleachers already. And its ridiculous to marginalize smokers like that.

Rule of thumb for smokers: if there isn't a roof above your head, light up.

Posted by: pstew | April 10, 2008 12:35 PM

Back in the day people used to ask: "Mind if I smoke?"

If smokers had some courtesy then I would be less inclined to be such a militant anti-smoker. But I have no problem with designated smoking areas. Since this is a 'family friendly' frenzied time we have to endure, go be family friendly...smoke where you're supposed to.

Posted by: DanD187 | April 10, 2008 1:22 PM

Thanks for the post. I have a couple issues with the smoking areas. First off, it's socially unacceptable to be a smoker in this day and age, so herding smokers into a cattle pen and making them wear "I am a smoker!" wristbands which will be the mark of horribleness in the summer when jackets don't cover them up is bad enough. Plus, they're on display like zoo animals to all the passersby to gawk at. "Oh, that's the *smoking* area". Nice. Worse, despite touting the park as so great you can see the game (if not live, on a tv) from every location apparently left out the smoking area. You can't see or hear the game from there. Plus, there are no ashtrays or garbage cans, making the sidewalk a nasty mess.

Go ahead, cue: If you can't make it through a game without a smoke, too bad!

Try to get through last night's affair without one! Honestly, I don't mind a separate space where it won't bother people. But...

Posted by: Anonymous | April 10, 2008 3:51 PM

I would also like to ban yelling and cheering. Clint is loud enough! Baseball games are for quiet consumption and kid friendly entertainment like spending three hours playing playstation in a corner! Also, fat people. I don't want to see them, or if I do see them, they should look sad so my children don't think it's ok to be fat. I would like there to be more kettle corn for sale. And I would like dance entertainment from 'Sparkle Motion!' at some point. Thank you.

Posted by: Grumpy Huddy-Duddy | April 10, 2008 4:23 PM

PLease, the STAFF is smoking on the much for a SMOKE FREE evening at the ballpark

Posted by: Greg | April 10, 2008 4:58 PM

Plus you have all the schmucks smoking in line for the metro. I can't believe people stil smoke.

Posted by: GoNats | April 11, 2008 12:35 PM

This is a park for boozers and little kids who don't have a Playstation at home.

There has to be some accommodation for smokers and the present arrangement is just not acceptable. There is plenty of room on the upper level but these areas HAVE to have means to dispose of smoking materials and an audio or video link to the game.

The seats are too small and uncomfortable, the food lines are long, and beer and/or hard liquor are available every five steps. I hate walking through spilled beer or having it spilled on me by people stumbling back to their seats where there is not enough legroom to allow passage. The smell is nauseating and drunks are no fun to sit by.

I sure miss RFK.

Posted by: Carolyn | April 14, 2008 9:58 AM

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