Lakewood is in the news again – mentioned in an August 16, 2016 Editorial Opinion of the Tacoma News Tribune – for having created buffers surrounding children in public parks to distance them from obnoxious adult behavior, i.e. smoking.
Unlike the Fife City Council whose members voted 4-2 earlier this month to ban “all tobacco products, smoking and e-cigarettes/vaping” in all seven of its public parks, Lakewood’s council two years ago voted 4-3 to continue the deadly habit albeit 50-feet away from designated play areas.
Fife joins the parks departments of Tacoma (2009), Gig Harbor (2007), Puyallup (2005) and the 21 properties of the Peninsula Metropolitan Parks District (2012) in banning smoking and tobacco products.
Lakewood remains an odd man out.
“Parks attract children, and leaders must err on the side of shielding youth from secondhand smoke. They also must do what they can to de-normalize the use of tobacco in social settings where kids watch adults closely,” the TNT Editorial Staff opined.
“In the end, the council decided an outright ban was the best way to protect people.”
Lakewood City Councilwoman Marie Barth said government shouldn’t be intruding on the private lives of its citizens.
In backing off a ban on smoking and tobacco use in city parks, Barth stated in the Jan. 19, 2014 Tacoma News Tribune, “I just don’t think we need somebody telling us what to do all the time, every day, everywhere we go. Expanding this to e-cigarettes, I just think we’re overreaching common sense.”
Quoting statistics from the Wall Street Journal about the declining numbers of adults smoking, plummeting sales of tobacco products, and the disinclination of youth to pick up the habit, Councilman John Simpson claimed such evidence demonstrated the power of disseminated information.
“In other words,” Simpson write in the February 13, 2014 edition of Lakewood Patch, “education programs warning the public about the dangers of smoking and tobacco products are having a clear and sustained effect on diminishing the number of smokers.”
But of the arguments used by Barth – who cast the lone dissenting vote in the Rental Inspection Program (RIP) decision – or that of Simpson who, with Barth, voted not to ban smoking, which of the two were applied in the August 1, 2016 verdict (6-1) of the Lakewood City Council to approve the RIP?
Despite Barth’s adage with regards smoking – “I just don’t think we need somebody telling us what to do all the time, every day, everywhere we go” – RIP does just that.
If there’s one thing RIP is, it’s intrusive.
Though Lakewood acknowledges the existence already of five separate programs with which to deal with property issues, with RIP Lakewood has crossed the threshold, literally, into the private domain of rental properties. With clipboard and checklist and red pen in hand, inspectors will examine everything from “suitable food preparation space” to wattage of light bulbs.
Simpson said education programs work – and therefore government intrusion into the lives of its citizens is not necessary – in changing the habits of people, specifically with regards smoking.
But education, pursuing a “robust educational program”, is exactly what RIP architects recommended not to undertake, opting instead for the implementation of the clipboard-carrying, fine-levying, threshold-crossing inspector encroaching upon private property.
And the council agreed.
To “protect the public,” they said.