|Smoking ban measure fails
By Tom Marshall
Senior Advocate writer
A proposed clean indoor air ordinance, otherwise known as a public smoking ban, failed to secure enough votes for passage Tuesday during a meeting of the Montgomery County Fiscal Court.
The court had a split vote with commissioners Melody Townsend and Jack “Rackle” Adams in favor and commissioner Billy Ray Fawns and judge-executive Wally Johnson against.
Because of the split vote, the measure failed.
Dr. Danielle King, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Health that helped draft the proposed ordinance, said she was disappointed with the decision.
“I am disheartened,” King said. “I think it is our duty to the citizens of Montgomery County. It’s not about the smoker, but the smoke. Everybody deserves a right to breath clean air.
“We’re just trying to protect those who cannot protect themselves, especially workers,” she explained. “They can’t always leave a job because someone is smoking around them even though they don’t want to be in that environment for fear of losing their job or retaliation if they try to talk to the individual or a superior. We hoped there would be better results today.”
King was joined at the meeting by fellow supporters Jan Chamness and Gina Brien of the Montgomery County Health Dept. King and Chamness have spoken with the fiscal court in support of the measure multiple times.
The health dept. previously conducted a survey that found that approximately 70 percent of Montgomery Countians support a public smoking ban.
Most recently, the health dept., in conjunction with the local Chamber of Commerce, circulated an 11-question survey to business leaders asking their policies on smoking. There were 62 responses.
Forty two business leaders, or 67.7 percent, said Montgomery County should “adopt a local law that all enclosed public places and workplaces, including restaurants, bars and other businesses have a smoke-free environment.”
Seventy-nine percent, or 49, said that smoking is not allowed anywhere inside their building. Four, or 6.4 percent, said smoking is allowed everywhere in the building. Forty-two, or 67.7 percent, said outdoor smoking is allowed on the property.
Other survey results show that 53.2 percent, or 33, believe smoking to be a serious health hazard. Another 25.8 percent characterized it as a moderate health hazard and 18 percent as a minor health hazard.
One speaker, Lynn Preston, a self described former smoker, addressed the court in support of the ordinance prior to the vote.
Preston said if smoking is not OK around children in our local schools why should it be permitted in our local business establishments. She encouraged the court to vote to protect the public at large.
“You won’t make 100 percent of the people happy, but you have a chance to protect 100 percent of Montgomery County,” Preston said.
In explaining his vote, Fawns said he favored encouraging businesses to go smoke-free, rather than enacting a law forcing them to do so.
“I agree with everything in the ordinance,” he said. “My recommendation was to present something to the businesses asking them to do it on a voluntary basis before enacting a law and shoving it down their throats. We should at least give them a chance to respond voluntarily.”
Fawns estimated that the ordinance would only have affected about five restaurants and 20 to 25 businesses, though no one has an accurate count.
Fawns said he is willing to go with health officials to local businesses to ask them to go smoke-free voluntarily.
He also said he would be willing to approach the matter again with an open mind in the future.
The proposal the court considered would have prohibited smoking “in all enclosed public places patronized by the public, including but not limited to banks, laundromats, professional offices, restaurants, child care facilities, hotels and motels.”
It would also have been prohibited in all enclosed areas of places of employment, including but not limited to, common work areas, classrooms, conference and meeting rooms, elevators, hallways, cafeterias and rest rooms.
Smoking would have been limited in outdoor public places within a reasonable distance of outside entrances, operable windows and ventilation systems.
The proposal called for fines of $50 per infraction. Owners/operators would have been fined $100 for a first violation, $200 for a second violation and $500 for each additional violation within a one-year period.
Continued non-compliance, the proposal said, would have resulted in the loss or suspension of any licenses or permits to operate.
Enforcement would have been handled by the health dept. and/or law enforcement.
E-cigarettes were also banned in the original proposal approved by the health dept., but would have been allowed in the one the court considered Tuesday.