Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Objections voiced to smoking ban

NEWTON, KANSAS - The clean air ordinance brought community members as well as others to the usually scarcely attended Newton City Commission meeting Tuesday night.

The main statement people wanted to make against the clean air ordinance being considered by the commission that will ban smoking in public places was the local government was overstepping its boundaries and taking away the rights of the residents.

Others came to the podium to voice their concerns about the amount of business that would be lost if the ordinance is passed.

Tiara Boyd, manager of Prime Time, said she would lose business if smoking was prohibited in her convenience store.

"Many of the customers come in to play the lottery or lotto where they can smoke," she said. "We would lose our customers."

Not only do the customers smoke, but employees do as well, she said. Only one clerk is on duty at a time and going outside while customers are in the store is not an option.

"If smoke bothers you, you have the choice not to come to our store," Boyd said. "It’s not fair to ban something that is legal."

CJ’s Pancake owner, Charles Lanham, was at the meeting to again state he is against the city government telling him what he can do with his business in regards to smoking. He said people have a choice to come to his restaurant. People who don’t like smoking don’t have to patronize the establishment. Also on Sundays there is a non-smoking room in the back of the restaurant for people to use.

After several people voiced their objections to government regulating smoking, the issue went back to the commission for discussion.

People were willing to give their input against the ordinance, but a few were quick to leave once their piece was said.

The commission reviewed the ordinance by first looking at the general prohibition of enclosed public areas and places of employment. Enclosed public places is defined in the ordinance to mean the portion or portions of any building, structure or other enclosure to which the public is invited or permitted to perform business transactions or to engage in any activity. Examples given in the ordinance include retail stores, retail service establishments (restaurants and bars), professional offices, educational, health care, child care and adult day cares, and indoor recreational and sport facilities.

Enclosed places of employment is described as any enclosed space under the possession or control of a public or private employer where employees engage in employment-related and other necessary activities include work areas, lounges, dining and rest areas, restrooms, meeting rooms and hallways.

It will be recommended that business owners post no-smoking signs at their places of business.

Areas within 20 feet of public entrances to buildings and outdoor vendor areas, such as the farmer’s markets, also will have a 20-foot area around them in which smoking will be prohibited.

Other outside areas, such as concession stands, bleachers and restroom areas, were left out of the ordinance and smoking will be allowed in those areas.

Commissioner Ken Hall asked if fraternal organizations, such as the Eagle Lodge and American Legion, were considered public groups. After discussion that organizations like that ask for membership, fraternal organizations were left out of the ordinance. This means smoking will not be banned from those organizations’ gathering places.

Bars will become non-smoking if the ordinance passes.

Smoke shops, defined as businesses where the predominate product is tobacco and tobacco-related products, will have a non-smoking policy put in place in the ordinance if enacted.

Hotels and motels will be allowed to designate up to 25 percent of their rooms as smoking, if the business owner chooses to.

Private functions within public buildings will not be allowed to include lighting up a cigarette or other tobacco products.

"In summary, smoking will be banned from all restaurants, bars and retail businesses," Mayor Willis Heck said.

The commission will revisit the clean air ordinance at the next meeting after the changes are made to the ordinance. Violation ramifications will be addressed at the next meeting, as well as discussing the possibility of individual businesses being exempted from the ordinance based on objections by management to the proposed ordinance.

Friday, October 5, 2007

City backs away from smoking ban

CALABASAS - City officials have backed off on a plan to ban smoking in all local apartments, instead reserving a small percentage of units for those who light up.

The City Council on Wednesday night reviewed an amendment to its second-hand smoke ordinance, which as originally drafted would have eventually barred all tenants from smoking inside their own apartments.

"In weighing the different rights, I feel that an individual has the right to engage in smoking inside their own residence," Mayor James Bozajian said. "I am not a smoker. I don't allow smoke in my home.

"As long as tobacco products are legal, it's something we shouldn't outlaw."

Last year, the city was the first to ban smoking in public places where anyone would be exposed to second-hand smoke.

"This is an extension of protection," said Councilwoman Mary Sue Maurer, who wrote the amendment along with Councilman Barry Groveman to include apartment complexes. "We're going to look further in separating buildings, having a percentage of buildings for smokers."

Under the revised proposal, apartment tenants would be prohibited from puffing on patios and balconies. But the council tossed out a recommendation that would have completely snuffed out smoking in local apartment complexes by designating units as nonsmoking once smokers leave.
Council members will revisit the issue in November when a revision is expected. They hope to have some form of anti-smoke policy pertaining to apartment complexes by the end of the year.