Boone Town Council
The town of Boone discussed possible revisions to the town smoking ordinance at its regular monthly meeting Thursday.
Approximately one year ago, a subcommittee consisting of then-council members Liz Aycock and Janet Pepin were appointed to review the current smoking ordinance. There were three issues to be examined by the committee. The first being compliance with the current ordinance and lack of signage enforcement. The ordinance, while current was deemed not comprehensive and consistent. A new state law, which opens municipality regulation, allowing each town or city to impose stricter policies than outlined at the state level, will go into effect Jan. 2.
The current smoking ordinance bans smoking in public elevators; transit; restrooms; waiting rooms; video arcades; educational facilities; child care facilities; shopping mall common areas; public areas of aquariums, galleries, libraries and museums when open; facilities used for motion pictures, stage drama, lecture, musical recital or similar performances, sports areas; health care facilities; common areas in multiple-unit residential or commercial facilities; polling places; town buildings; and all designated areas with signage.
In addition, smoking was banned in town-owned vehicles when a nonsmoker is present.
Exemptions were provided for private homes and apartments, residence hall rooms, hotel and motel rooms, church facilities, private gatherings not open to the public, and retail tobacco stores.
Under the new proposed ordinance, all enclosed areas of restaurants, lodging establishments and bars will be banned. There are a few exceptions including designated smoking rooms in a lodging establishment, if smoking rooms are no greater than 20 percent of guest rooms. Private clubs and cigar bars are also exempt. Cigar bars beginning operation after July 1, 2009, must be in a freestanding structure occupied solely by the smoking establishment. The same rule will apply to tobacco shops.
The most significant change in the proposal pertains to public entrances. Smoking will be prohibited within a six-foot radius of any public entrance when the establishment is open. There is no such restriction in the current ordinance.
The opening statements of the new ordinance indicate the town's purpose is to protect the health and wellbeing of children by banning, to the extent possible, smoking in their presence.
Within the ordinance, provisions have been made to ban smoking within six feet of a child, within every location primarily used for children, including playgrounds, even when a child is not present.
Additional proposed bans include the grounds of all town parks, including the Greenway trail system, and on the grounds of the Jones House.
The ordinance changes were redirected back to the committee and will be presented again at the regular December meeting for action by the council.
Lynne Mason suggested some additional bans be added to the draft, including outdoor dining.
"There is mention of the Jones House, but not Horn in the West and the Farmers Market," Mason said.
The council debated creating a list of properties to be included in the prohibited areas. The committee will reconsider a listing, or using the provision "all town properties except in designated smoking areas."
"I think this council wants to be as restrictive as we can," said mayor Loretta Clawson.
County properties, Appalachian State University and the Watauga Medical Center facilities are designated smoke free.
"This [proposed ordinance] compliments what other entities have done," Mason said.
Council members discussed the town sidewalks. Sidewalks are public property, owned by the town.
Council member Janet Pepin, while noting this was her last council meeting, commented on the inclusion of all town properties. Newly elected council members will be sworn in during the regular December meeting.
"We need to be sensitive to smokers. To say every single property, your telling everyone they have to quit smoking," she said. "We should allow people a place to smoke."
Council member Stephen Phillips agreed with both strong restrictions and some designated smoking areas.
He pointed out that the six feet from any entrance would place limitations on King Street sidewalks or to specifically limit King Street apart from all sidewalks. The police enforcement of all sidewalks would be difficult, he said.
"I would like to see the police using time elsewhere," he said.
"I am not necessarily on a mission to reform smokers," council member Jamie Leigh said. "All or nothing is not reasonable and not enforceable."
Council member Rennie Brantz favored the strong restrictions, saying the town should protect children and prevent smoking in all parks and in front of municipal buildings.
The penalties will be a warning for the first violation and a $50 fine for further infractions.
The Watauga County Health Department may impose an administrative penalty on those responsible for the operation of a public place or place of employment. Penalties will a written warning for the first and second violations, then an administrative penalty not to exceed $200.
The penalties are set by state law and not determined by the town.
The proposed ordinance will be returned to the committee. Pepin will continue to serve on the committee, joined by Lynne Mason to revise the draft according to discussion at the meetings. The ordinance will be on the agenda of the December for action.