Council to decide smoking ban Jan. 2

ESCANABA – A smoking ban at the new John D. Besse Park in Escanaba will be considered for approval or disapproval by Escanaba City Council when it meets Jan. 2, council decided Thursday.

Last month, a motion to prohibit smoking at the park was defeated by council in a 3-2 vote. Administration was looking to apply city park rules to the playground that was constructed this summer on the corner of 8th Avenue South and South 30th Street.

During Thursday’s regular meeting, opposition and support of the smoking ban were again expressed by council which unanimously agreed to set Jan. 2 for the second reading and public hearing of the ordinance amendment which would include a 100-foot no-smoking area around the new playground.

In response to council’s request for a review of the ordinance, Recreation Director Tom Penegor said Thursday that the smoking ban has been working since the rule was approved by council in July 2011.

The ordinance prohibits smoking within 100 feet of city buildings, nine playgrounds, six ball fields, the guarded beach area, Webster pool, and two ice rinks.

The issue was first considered by the city’s Recreation Advisory Board after Penegor was approached by the public health department to ban smoking in areas where there are high concentrations of children.

“The main purpose is to create a safer and healthier environment for our kids,” explained Penegor, citing the dangers of second-hand smoke and cigarette butts to children.

He explained further that the 100-foot radius prohibiting smoking was put in place to prevent children from breathing in second-hand smoke, to prevent cigarette butt littering where children are present, and for children not to have to witness adults smoking.

Penegor also noted 3.4 acres of the city’s total 504 acres of recreational land are included in the no-smoking ban, representing less than one percent of that property.

He also noted Escanaba was the first city in the Upper Peninsula to approve a smoking ban which several other places have since enacted, many of them looking at Escanaba’s policy as a model.

During council discussion on the matter, Council Member Ron Beauchamp said he views the no-smoking ordinance as a civil liberty issue saying the city can’t tell parents how to raise their children. He also said ultraviolet rays and carbon monoxide, like second-hand smoke, are also harmful to people’s health.

Mayor Marc Tall said his objection to the ordinance is government control versus the freedom of adult behavior. He added the ordinance is a good rule but he doesn’t agree with the 100-foot rule.

Council Member Pat Baribeau said she’s always been in favor of the smoking ban despite the fact that she was a smoker herself until she was recently diagnosed with lung cancer. She added that smoking sets a bad example for children.

Council Member Ralph Blasier said that smoking is a bad public health issue and should be banned at playgrounds and ball fields.

Council Member Leo Evans reserved his right to comment until after the second public hearing on Jan. 2.

Evans and Baribeau voted in favor of the smoking ban at the Nov. 7 council meeting while Beauchamp, Tall and former council member Pete Baker opposed the motion.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143,