Reminder: The Lakewalk is a Tobacco-Free Area
With the nice springlike weather in the last few days, many people have been enjoying Duluth's Lakewalk. I've been among them, taking an occasional evening stroll from Canal Park along the shoreline toward the east end of town. While the weather and scenery have been great, I ran into a couple individuals that dampened my experience a little bit.
Before I go any further, I want to be abundantly clear on a couple quick things. First, I am not a smoker. I've never been a smoker. That said, I don't look down on smokers. I respect your right to smoke or chew or whatever. Along with that, I am not someone that is of the belief smokers shouldn't be allowed to smoke anywhere but in their car in a dark alley. There are some public places that are generally acceptable to light up, and I'm ok with that.
Now that I have all of that out of the way, back to my story. Over the last few evenings enjoying strolls on the Lakewalk, I've encountered a couple smokers. A few of them walking, and one of them riding a bicycle (which takes some extra skill). In all of those cases, I found it bothering me that I was left in a cloud of smoke. Keep in mind that I have friends that smoke, and I've stood outside of bars talking with them or sat around a campfire with them while they had a cigarette without protesting. The key difference between many of these locations and the Lakewalk is that those places aren't destinations for families with kids, while the Lakewalk is such a destination.
My justification for the annoyance was the fact that the Lakewalk is generally percieved as a place to enjoy some physical activity, beautiful scenery, and the fresh air off Lake Superior. The smoke that drifted into my face while on the Lakewalk irked me because it sullied that preconceived notion that I, and so many others have about the in-city nature experience the trail offers - plus it impacted families with small children that were nearby as well.
The City of Duluth actually enacted an ordinance in the fall of 2012 that banned the use of all tobacco products (even smokeless) on the Lakewalk, Lake Place, and Leif Erickson Park (via nncnow.com). Along with the passing of the ordinance, signs were posted to notify tobacco users of the rule.
While the ordinance was ultimately passed, there was heated debate on both sides. Proponents of the ordinance offered health and environmental reasons for the ban, along with the issue of litter generated by tobacco use. It's worth mentioning that there were also motivations to cut back on the use of synthetic drugs in the area parks as part of the discussion.
Those opposed to the ordinance argued that the act of banning smoking outdoors was going too far, and questions about why it only targeted certain park spaces surfaced as well. One councilor argued that it would be very difficult to enforce such an ordinance without extra funding to do so, which makes the ordinance somewhat pointless (via freetobacco.info).
In the end, the ordinance did pass 6-3, and has been the law of the land for these park spaces for a few years. While it is understandably difficult to enforce, I'd implore smokers to not necessarily just consider the ordinance and the rights of others, but particularly the fact that there are families with children that want to enjoy this park space as well.