Answers through the haze

Several trash buckets dot the Canon Park but cigarette butts are still left on the ground as trash Thursday May 16, 2013. (Grace Beahm/

Grace Beahm

The Medical University of South Carolina is extending its healing mission to a neighborhood feud. Doing so could make brain surgery look easy.

At issue is a city ordinance banning smoking on sidewalks surrounding MUSC and Roper Hospital. Charleston City Council supported the ordinance so sick patients and their families could avoid walking through a haze of carcinogenic second-hand smoke.

But what was intended to be good for patients was not so good for neighbors — particularly for those who take their children and dogs to Cannon Park.

When they were squeezed off campus and off nearby sidewalks, MUSC smokers simply walked a bit farther to satisfy their habit. The shaded benches at Cannon Park are a particular favorite.

The fact is some people don’t want anyone smoking in the park, but smokers clearly have the right to do so.

So instead neighbors have focused on the cigarette butts that smokers leave behind. An annoyance for sure.

Neighbors have written letters to the editor. They have made numerous complaints to MUSC.

And MUSC has responded.

MUSC President Ray Greenberg, after taking frequent walks through the neighborhood and the park to assess the extent of the problem, endorsed sending MUSC employees to pick up cigarette butts at the park twice a day.

Another MUSC group is considering widening their work to include parts of Harleston Village. MUSC wants to be a good neighbor.

Dr. Greenberg believes that people working on a construction project at MUSC are part of the problem. That will be over soon. And after that, MUSC intends to address the problem during future contract negotiations to avoid those butts.

But, Dr. Greenberg tells us, something good has come out of the unhappy controversy. MUSC offers employees a free smoking cessation program, and 100 people have enrolled since the ordinance went into effect.

Neighbors can be pleased that potentially 100 fewer smokers will intrude in their space. And Dr. Greenberg is pleased to think that “100 lives are being saved.”

Now, on to that brain surgery.