Smoking ban in Lakewood parks rejected in close vote

Tacoma News TribuneFebruary 19, 2014 

Lakewood area residents voice their opinions about the rejection of an outright smoking ban and a new rule limiting smoking in public parks.

TACOMA NEWS TRIBUNE

The Lakewood City Council has decided not to ban smoking in the city’s 12 parks. Instead smokers and tobacco users must be at 50 feet away from play areas, fields, picnic shelters and other gathering places.

The council made its decision in a 4-to-3 vote Tuesday night, rejecting the advice of the city’s Parks Advisory Board, which twice recommended the ban. Council members heard from five people Tuesday who favored the ban and also received emails requesting its approval. One man spoke against the ban at the public meeting.

Lakewood resident Alice Peeples has a respiratory condition that makes her sick when exposed to cigarette smoke, she said.

“There’s no redeeming value for anything about tobacco,” she told the council. “Tobacco is a toxin, a poison.”

Peeples and daughter Jeannie Hill were disappointed with the vote.

“I’m surprised,” Hill said afterward. “Considering all of the neighboring communities, most of them years ago, have gone this way with a total ban, it should have been a no-brainer.”

Tacoma approved a ban in 2009, Gig Harbor in 2007 and Puyallup in 2005. The Peninsula Metropolitan Parks District banned smoking and the use of tobacco products from its 21 properties in 2012.

Lakewood Councilman John Simpson said he looked for research supporting the opinion that second-hand smoke in open areas is detrimental to the health of others. But he said he found “no definitive connection.”

“I would like to be able to vote yes for this, but I cannot and I will not,” Simpson said.

Councilman Jason Whalen said smoking is already not allowed in buildings or public places, and that should be extended to outdoor public places.

“For me it’s not about the facts inherent in second-hand smoke or whether all the studies are aligned,” Whalen said. “To me it’s an issue about policy. I do believe we have an opportunity to make a statement.”

The council discussed the smoking ban in January and asked the parks board for more options. The parks board sent its recommendation back, saying a ban met the city’s goal of promoting healthy living.

The council considered four options Tuesday, including the 50-foot buffer that was ultimately approved. Councilman Michael Brandstetter proposed the buffer instead of the ban.

Terry Reid, co-chairman of the Tobacco-Free Alliance of Pierce County, thinks the council’s decision will cause more problems than it quells.

“It sends a mixed message about what is important to the citizens of Lakewood,” Reid said. “Bans are effective policy.”

Council members Mary Moss, Marie Barth, Brandstetter and Simpson voted for the buffer. Mayor Don Anderson, Councilman Paul Bocchi and Whalen voted against it, saying they preferred an outright ban.

Another proposal before the council Tuesday would have updated Lakewood code to allow alcohol in parks when special permits are granted.

The council voted 4 to 3 to keep parks alcohol-free. Barth, Brandstetter, Moss and Simpson voted to keep the code the way it is; Anderson, Bocchi and Whalen voted to allow regulated alcohol.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467 Brynn.grimley@thenewstribune.com

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