Park policy should target kids’ health

The News TribuneFebruary 14, 2014 

FT STEILACOOM PARK

STOCK: Ft. Steilacoom Park Fort Steilacoom Park Fort Steilacoom Park in Lakewood. December 27, 2010 Peter Haley / Staff photographer

PETER HALEY — THE NEWS TRIBUNE

Smokers know they’re cornered.

There are few public places where they can smoke anymore, and at workplaces they’re usually shunted off to a remote corner of the parking lot to feed their habit.

Even the great outdoors increasingly comes with a “No smoking” sign, as many parks systems now prohibit tobacco products along with alcohol. In Pierce County, Metro Parks and Puyallup parks are among those that have smoking bans with fines for offenders.

Now the Lakewood City Council is considering a ban unanimously proposed by its Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. It would extend to all 12 city parks facilities, including the huge Fort Steilacoom Park. The council could decide on the issue at its Tuesday meeting.

The News Tribune editorial board supported the statewide initiative to ban smoking in public places, including restaurants, bars and other enclosed establishments. It was a public health issue: Workers were exposed to hours of continuous cigarette smoke, endangering their health.

A comprehensive indoor smoking ban made sense. We’re not so sure about one that prohibits smoking outdoors, except in places where people are concentrated — play areas, grandstands and picnic shelters, for instance.

Cities and counties across Washington have a hodgepodge of smoking policies. Many ban it outright; many others prohibit smoking within 25 feet of areas where children congregate — including skate parks — and at very small parks where it would be difficult to avoid secondhand smoke. The Lakewood City Council should consider those options instead of rejecting the proposed ban outright. Protecting children from secondhand smoke should be a priority.

A survey of more than 200 Pierce County resident in 2013 by the Tobacco-Free Alliance of Pierce County found that a smoking ban is supported by a strong majority — more than 85 percent. That’s not too surprising; it’s roughly the percentage of nonsmokers in the population.

If the City Council decides not to ban tobacco use in Lakewood parks, residents could always take action into their own hands. They have the right of initiative and referendum; if there’s strong support for a total ban, that’s an option to consider.

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