We are a bit confused by the action of the Escanaba City Council at its regular meeting on Nov. 7. Although the city has had a ban on smoking in Escanaba's parks since July 2011, council voted down an attempt to include the city's newest park - John D. Besse Park - as one of the areas in the city where smoking is prohibited. The decision was made in a 3-2 vote.
Council members Leo Evans and Patricia Baribeau voted to include John D. Besse Park as a no smoking area.
Council members Pete Baker, Ron Beauchamp and Marc Tall voted to exclude John D. Besse Park from the ordinance and allow smoking there. Their reasoning - the no-smoking ordinance needs to be revisited and they feel people should be allowed to smoke at the park while they watch their children play.
We can only think that council is taking a step backward.
The city's smoking ban has been in existence for over two years and appears to be working. The amendment prohibits smoking within 100 feet of city buildings, nine playgrounds, six ball fields, the guarded beach area, Webster pool, and two ice rinks. Specifically, the ordinance was designed to prohibit smoking where children are concentrated - places like John D. Besse Park.
Why this particular park would be excluded from the smoking ban makes no sense and does not apply the ordinance uniformly throughout the city. Essentially, John D. Besse Park has become the city's smoking park. That's a sad statement.
It just doesn't make sense for the council to "revisit" the no-smoking policy. Look at the trend in the U.S. and Michigan. Smoking is prohibited in workplaces - including bars and restaurants. There's a reason for that - smoking can kill you. Studies show that breathing second-hand smoke is just as deadly. Smoking impacts everyone - young and old, smokers and non-smokers. People die because of it. Period.
People shouldn't have to be exposed to smoking in public places - including parks and playgrounds. Lawmakers have realized this and restricted where people can smoke for the health and benefit of everyone. The Escanaba City Council realized this when it put its no-smoking policy on the books in 2011.
Escanaba should be moving forward. That's not the direction council seems to be going in on this issue.