Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Feb. 8, 2023

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In Our View: Ban Smoking in County Parks

They might as well, for all the confusing restrictions commissioners keep adding

The Columbian

Steve Stuart and Tom Mielke still don’t get it. The two Clark County commissioners just can’t bring themselves to ban smoking in county parks.Oh, they’re “getting it” when it comes to political points from some folks who praise them for supposedly upholding smokers’ rights. But here’s what erodes their credibility as they acknowledge that applause: By continuing to heap confusing details and detailed regulations upon smokers in parks, the two commissioners have done everything BUT ban smoking in county parks. Here’s what they were up to earlier this week:

Stuart and Mielke voted in favor of changing some voluntary smoke-free areas of county parks to mandatory smoke-free areas. That strengthens a 2005 policy affecting areas around public restrooms; areas around public events at parks or ball fields (such as concerts and league practices and games). There’s also a confusing and flimsy theory floating among county officials that smoking could be banned in the county’s neighborhood and community parks, with designated smoking areas at the county’s regional parks. Sheesh!

Steve and Tom, why not just enact a total smoking ban in all county parks? Which brings us to Marc Boldt, the county commissioner who wisely supports a total smoking ban in county parks and opposed this week’s changes because they fall short of a total ban. Unlike Stuart and Mielke, Boldt gets it. He understands why the oft-disparate Vancouver City Council unanimously banned smoking in city parks last December. Of course, Boldt might not “get it” when it comes to praise from the pro-smoking rights crowd. This seems a bit unfair in that Boldt advocates not a whole lot more than what Stuart and Mielke are doing by monkeying around with voluntary and mandatory smoke-free zones.

Boldt also understands why other Washington cities such as Battle Ground, Lacey and Olympia have banned smoking in parks. He might even know that New York City is among 100-plus U.S. municipalities that have banned smoking in parks. For that matter, Boldt might even be familiar with this quote from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which we included in a Dec. 7, 2011, editorial: “Smoking in parks and on beaches not only harms people trying to enjoy these recreational facilities, it also causes a litter problem that harms the beauty of our parks.”

But back to Stuart and Mielke. The former said, “I can’t do this (ban smoking in county parks) on anecdotes alone,” at a meeting this week. The latter said, “I don’t know where we need to go. I don’t think this is it.” For their enlightenment, we offer from a previous editorial these statistics that speak more compellingly than anecdotes:

The American Lung Association blames secondhand smoke for causing close to 50,000 deaths annually.

Six years ago, 63 percent of voters in Washington and almost two-thirds of voters in Clark County approved a statewide ban on smoking indoors in public places.

What about secondhand smoke outdoors? Stuart and Mielke should listen to their own county health director, Dr. Alan Melnick, who explained that the U.S. surgeon general says no amount of secondhand smoke is safe.

Stuart and Mielke should stop pretending they’re getting tough on smoking by enacting petty policy changes. They should stop playing games with their constituents’ health. And they should start listening to Boldt, who correctly maintains: “Unless there’s an outright ban in neighborhood and community parks, I can’t see going any further.”