Our View: Extend 'no smoking' to Lakewalk, all parks
City policy already snuffs cigs in Duluth's parks. So an ordinance to ban smoking along the Lakewalk and its adjacent splashes of green? Absolutely. But the City Council can go a step further in the name of clearing the air of deadly poisons foun...
City policy already snuffs cigs in Duluth's parks. So an ordinance to ban smoking along the Lakewalk and its adjacent splashes of green?
But the City Council can go a step further in the name of clearing the air of deadly poisons found in secondhand smoke: It can extend the teeth of a new law to all city parks.
An ordinance to ban smoking along the Lakewalk and in bordering parks was introduced last week and is expected to be discussed by councilors when they meet again on Monday. Here's hoping the discussion includes a broader reach.
A law to ban, rather than a policy just to discourage, smoking in all public recreational places would further protect Duluthians and visitors to Duluth from health dangers. Everyone should be able to enjoy public parks free of the stench, haze and health concerns related to smoking -- just like they can now enjoy restaurants and other buildings and places where the public gathers.
And if a new law additionally gives police another tool to crack down on the irresponsible and dangerous use and abuse of synthetic marijuana and other products on the Lakewalk, then all the better.
The ordinance certainly seems targeted at the use of synthetics, or "other deleterious products," as it reads. To the chagrin of others, such substances are purchased at the Last Place on Earth store downtown and then used a few steps away along the Lakewalk and in its parks, especially Lake Place Park.
But the law could be welcomed by Duluthians living near East High School, too. Some have complained about students smoking on the stretch of the Lakewalk that passes near there.
And it would extend smoking-cessation efforts that already are making a huge difference in the health and lives of Minnesotans. Secondhand smoke dropped 95 percent in restaurants and bars since the state's Freedom to Breathe Act went into effect in 2007. That benefited especially bartenders and wait staff who deserve a safe environment in which to work. And the positive result didn't come at the expense of the restaurant and tavern industry, as some feared. No statistically significant changes occurred in bar and restaurant employment since the law went into effect, according to University of Minnesota research. Because employment is one of the most flexible expenses for businesses, employment figures are a good indicator of a business' -- and an industry's -- bottom line.
An overwhelming 77 percent of Minnesotans now agree: Going smoke-free in our restaurants and bars was the healthy and right thing to do, according to ClearWay Minnesota, a science-centered, statewide smoking-cessation group funded with millions from the 1998 settlement between the tobacco industry and both the state and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota. The group further found a record-low 17 percent of the state's residents are now smokers. That's down from about 22 percent just a few years ago.
It's no wonder the city of Duluth started putting up signs and discouraging smoking in parks. The City Council can take that a step further -- while delivering a body blow in the war against synthetics -- by making law a ban on smoking in all Duluth parks, including the Lakewalk.