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Don't Smoke in Bars But Light Up at the T-Ball Game!

©2009 Jenna Hatfield Indoor soccer season is over. My oldest son received his trophy and learned many a lesson (as did I). We're now gearing up for t-ball season which is his first sporting love. Quite honestly, it's also my favorite as I played softball for eleven years. There's something magical about the green of the grass, the sound of the ball hitting the bat and the smell of cigarette smoke.

Wait a minute. Cigarette smoke? At the t-ball field? Stay with me.

Our experience last year with t-ball was great. We were lucky that we got three great coaches who were patient with the new-to-baseball kids, teaching them the concepts in a fun, energized way. There was laughter. There were occasional tears. There were snacks. Games were one hour long. No score was kept. The sun shone on the field while little brothers and sisters ran along the sidelines, knocking each other over. It was perfect.

Except for the aforementioned cigarette smoke.

During one game, I sat along the third base line with my younger son running circles around my folding camping chair. Suddenly, I did a double-sniff. You know, that sniff you do when you realize that you smell something that doesn't belong. You do it when you're driving down the road and smell a skunk. Or when you're tentatively sniffing the milk jug to see if you have another morning's worth of cereal milk left. Or when your precious newborn grunts and smiles with that devious look in his eyes. When I did the double-sniff, I smelled cigarette smoke. I turned to find the perpetrators, plural, and turned back around to silently fume while cheering for my son who had fresh pink lungs. If it had been just one game and just one cigarette, I wouldn't have been annoyed. It continued all season with different smokers. Every single game.

I'm an ex-smoker. I smoked in college because I thought it was cool or hip or edgy. It was dumb. I regret those days but they are behind me. I hope to raise my children to make different and better decisions in that area. Living in Ohio, I was pleased as punch when the citizens voted to ban indoor smoking, including in restaurants and, yes, even bars. Now when I go out with my husband on a date, neither of us come home smelling like an ashtray. If we go to a restaurant as a family, I don't feel the need to immediately strip my children and wash their clothes upon walking in the house. I made the mistake of stopping at a little diner with my mom as we traveled through West Virginia once. My children's clothes were disgusting by the time we finished our meals.

I understand that we're not going to ban smokers from smoking outdoors. It's the only place, other than their cars and homes, where they are free to smoke. In college, I had to smoke outdoors, even in the cold of winter, because smoking wasn't allowed in our dorms. When you drive past a bar in the late hours of the evening, you can find a group of bar-goers standing outside, talking and smoking, even if it's colder than cold. But do smokers really need to smoke at a t-ball game? It's an hour long game. Smoke in your car before, smoke in your car after. If you really can't resist the nic-fit for 60 minutes, either walk back to your vehicle or pop in a piece of Nicotine gum.

It's not just t-ball games. It's at the city park playground, too. It's fine that Smoking Joe doesn't care that he exposes his daughter to second-hand smoke in his vehicle on the way to the park but as he stands there pushing her on the swing with a Camel hanging out of his mouth, my swing-loving two year old gets exposed to the nastiness as well. I'm not going to berate smokers for smoking outside restaurants or stores. I am, however, beyond aggravated with those who find it necessary to light up in areas designed for and designated as children's areas: playgrounds, sporting events, zoos, the baby pool and so on. 

Perhaps this is my punishment for getting snarky with anyone who told me that I needed to quit smoking when I was in college. The truth is that I could handle it if I was the only one being punished. However, my children are being exposed to second hand smoke out of no fault of their own. They're just trying to remember how to swing a bat, field a ball, have a little fun and get a snack after a t-ball game. Is it too much to ask that they do that without someone blowing smoke on the sidelines?

The website Smoke Free Ohio touts this line: "Everyone has the right to breathe smoke free air." Apparently that right doesn't extend to my children. Or yours.

This has been an original Ohio Moms Blog post.

Jenna Hatfield, aka @FireMom, is a freelance writer and newspaper photographer. She blogs at Stop, Drop & Blog and The Chronicles of Munchkin Land. She is a Contributing Editor at AdoptionBlogs.com and Mom Central Technology. When she can breathe freely, she's usually chasing her children outside.