A new ban on tobacco and the smoking of products like synthetic marijuana on Duluth's Lakewalk and adjacent parks is making its way through the City Council.
A proposed ordinance was read for the first time Monday but council members won't have their first discussion on the ban until their next meeting, Sept. 10. The ban would apply to the Lakewalk and its connected parks, including Leif Erikson and Lake Place.
All tobacco use, including chewing tobacco, would be banned under the new rule. It would also do away with the "smoking of other deleterious products," an attempt to include products like incense sprayed with chemicals to mimic the effects of drugs like marijuana. That's an apparent reaction to complaints about people gathering in Lake Place Park to smoke synthetic products they purchase at the Last Place on Earth, the Superior Street shop under scrutiny from Duluth Police and the city under nuisance rules. Customers there often enter Lake Place a few steps from the shop to smoke the controversial products.
Several people on the Lakewalk on Monday said they approved of cracking down on synthetic marijuana, but some were less enthusiastic about banning tobacco.
Duluth resident Christina Woods, who is Anishinaabe, thinks people should be able to smoke cigarettes on the Lakewalk because, to some, smoking is a sacred activity, and Lake Superior is a sacred place to the Anishinaabe and other native people.
"Smoking a cigarette in this area is a form of prayer and spiritual connection," she said. "If it were banned, that would limit where we are able to practice our spirituality in the community. That would include laying tobacco or smoking it. Not to say people don't abuse it, but for the most part it's supposed to be sacred."
She doesn't think cigarettes and synthetic marijuana should fall under the same ban.
Mick Roby of Brainerd doesn't like cigarette smoking, but doesn't think it should be banned from the Lakewalk.
"People have rights," he said. "But I am definitely anti-smoking."
As a tourist, he's noticed the crowds gathered outside the Last Place on Earth. He agreed with Woods that the synthetic marijuana purchased there should be regulated.
"I am not in favor of artificial marijuana," he said. "It falls in the hands of children."
Kari Kelso of Moose Lake said she drives to Duluth to use the Lakewalk about three times a week with her border collie, Katie. She said she would support a ban on smoking on the Lakewalk for health reasons and a more pleasant atmosphere.
"It's such a beautiful place," she said. "You just want to enjoy the ambience and you get a whiff of some kind of smoke. I don't think it needs to be around here. And you see cigarette butts a lot. Pollution is not the greatest thing."
Minneapolis resident Dave Petree was smoking outside his hotel in Canal Park. Another sanction put on smokers by the city would be too much, he said.
"There are so many places we can't smoke," he said, such as restaurants, bars and hotels. The outdoors should be different. "You're outside in the air."
Duluth resident Tyler LaRose was standing outside the Last Place on Earth on Monday. He said he understood why such a ban would be proposed for the sake of health, but that people had the right to smoke cigarettes or synthetic marijuana wherever they wanted outside in public places.
"If you're going to smoke, smoke," he said. "If you're not, don't."
Duluth has had a policy asking people not to smoke in city parks for nearly a decade, but it is not an ordinance. Signs simply ask people to not smoke.