City Council unanimously adopts comprehensive ‘No Smoking’ ban throughout Paris

SRO Paris City Council 03242014

A capacity crowd — many of them with strong opinions about smoking — packed the Paris City Council chambers on Monday night as the council amended city smoking regulations to include restaurants and sports venues. (eParisExtra photo by Charles Richards)

Addressing the dangers of second-hand smoke, the Paris City Council unanimously adopted a stricter “No Smoking” policy for the city Monday night, putting into effect immediately a ban on smoking in public places, including restaurants.

First, District 4 councilman Dr. Richard Grossnickle, sticking to his guns to the end, made a motion to adopt an even stricter policy that would have included bars and E-cigarettes, which a citizens task force left out, as a compromise.

His motion died for lack of a second, and Grossnickle then went along with his colleagues in a 7-0 vote for the “compromise” version of the smoking ordinance, which omits any mention of E-cigs (vapor cigarettes) and permits bar owners to permit smoking in their establishments.

District 5 councilman Matt Frierson was the only member of the council who had opposed broadening the city’s smoking policies — not because he favors smoking but because he felt it was up to a bar owner or restaurant owner whether to allow smoking. In voting for the ordinance, he said he appreciated the process the council went through in involving citizens a voice.

A number of members of a 10-member citizen task force — five for and five against — that weighed in on the process were at Monday night’s meeting, which drew perhaps the largest crowd at a council meeting since the council moved to its present chambers in 2006.

At the start of the meeting, several people both for and against tighter smoking restrictions addressed the council in Citizens Forum.

The council began looking at a stronger “No Smoking” ordinance in January, after students, physicians and others came with complaints about the ill effects of second-hand smoke on others, particularly in restaurants. From the start, the council was sympathetic to that view, but opted to let a citizens task force weigh in.

A factor in the compromise on bars was that smoking there won’t affect children because one must be 18 to go into a bar. E-cigs were omitted because of a lack of scientific evidence that they present a danger to others.

By Wednesday, City Manager John Godwin will put the complete smoking ordinance on the city website and will make copies available to the news media.

But there is a 30-day grace period that runs through April 23. After that time, those who smoke in violation of the ordinance may be cited for a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $50 plus court costs. But citizens will be expected to comply with the ordinance immediately.

The new ordinance affects restaurants more than any other establishments, since an existing ordinance passed in 1994 already addressed other public places. A sign is to be displayed prominently in all Paris restaurants proclaiming that smoking is illegal, punishable by a fine of at least $50 plus court costs. Restaurant owners are also to remove all ashtrays.

Smoking is illegal not only inside public places but within 30 feet of any entrance.

The new ordinance also addresses ball fields and other sports arenas, which were of special concern because youth are involved generally. Smoking is prohibited within 25 feet of bleachers, grandstands, restroom facilities and concession stands serving these facilities, and within 30 feet of any outdoor playground.

It will be the responsibility of those who own, manage or operate cafes and other establishments to ask anyone who is smoking to stop doing so. If they refuse, the individuals are to be told to leave the premises. If they refuse, police are to be called.

Click here to see the details of the full ordinance.

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra

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About the Author

Charles Richards Charles Richards moved to Paris in 2004 after retiring from a 40-year career in journalism – the last 26 years as a news writer and sports writer with The Associated Press in Dallas and Washington, D.C. In mid-2004, The Paris News coaxed him out of retirement, and he began covering the police, court and regional beat for The Paris News. Then in early 2005, he was switched to coverage of a sharply divided Paris City Council. He was appointed by the City Council in 2006 to the 12-member City Charter Review Commission, which extensively rewrote the outmoded document. His writing awards include two first-place awards in statewide competition for feature writing. The most recent was his 2005 story on a Paris doctor’s startling use of leeches in a successful attempt to re-attach a man’s severed ear. Over his career, Richards’ interview subjects include Alabama Gov. George Wallace, President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, David Koresh, Arnold Palmer, Muhammad Ali and numerous other political and sports figures. He is an alumnus of Texas Tech, where he was editor of the school newspaper. He lives in Paris with his wife, Barbara, who is retired after 30 years as a teacher and high school counselor.