Paris, TX 78°F Clear

Task force tweaks 'No Smoking' ordinance

The zone outside restaurants and areas where smoking will be prohibited in Paris under a new, more restrictive city ordinance has been increased from 20 feet to 30 feet.

600px-No_smoking_symbol.svgThat and several other changes were recommended Monday afternoon by a citizens task force that began at 4:30 p.m. Monday and lasted until 5:15 p.m. — 15 minutes before a meeting of the Paris City Council.

With those revisions, City Attorney Kent McIlyar will bring the proposed ordinance, which prohibits smoking in and around restaurants and sports arenas or playgrounds, back to the next meeting of the Paris City Council on March 24 for action.

The changes will go into effect immediately upon adoption, with a 30-day grace period for enforcement.

District 4 Councilman Richard Grossnickle, who favors a prohibition that would include bars, urged his colleagues to adopt the ordinance as originally proposed, before it was sent to a citizens’ group for input.

Mayor AJ Hashmi said: “We appointed a committee. We should back up what the committee says.”

Task force members Jeff Martin (for a total smoking ban) and John Kruntorad (against telling a merchant he can’t allow amoking) urged the council to go along with the group’s recommendations.

“I don’t think either siude will ever be completely satisfied or happy with the way it ended up. However, I think a lot was achieved, and I think a great ordinance is going to be place in front of you,” Martin said.

The 10-member task force was comprised of five members who wanted a total city-wide smoking ban and five members who opposed regulations that would prohibit the owner of a bar or restaurant from allowing smoking in his establishment.

Grossnickle said he felt most Paris residents favor a smoking ban and said he would have been happier had the task force had perhaps eight who favored the ban and two who opposed it. Grossnickle was the only “no” vote when the council agreed to the mayor’s suggestion that a citizens task group study the proposal.

Knowing that the council was prepared to adopt a total ban, those on the task force who opposed that compromised by prohibiting smoking in restaurants but allowing smoking in bars, so long as they do not open into “a food establishment, hotel, motel, or any other establishment in which smoking is prohibited.”

A further compromise was reached Monday. Some members wanted to extend the “no smoking” area outside a restaurant or other public building from 20 feet to 100 feet. The committee compromised at 30 feet.

“That would be difficult for a small business to have their employees go that far away to smoke, or to have their customers go that far away,” Kruntorad said in summing up what the task force agreed upon Monday.

  • Kruntorad successfully argued against inclusion of “language that was in the original ordinance” citing studies by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about the dangers of second-hand smoke. One sentence noted ‘indisputable evidence that implementing 100% smoke-free environments is the only effective way to protect the population from the harmful effects of exposure to second-hand smoke.’ Kruntorad said after the meeting: “Some of us felt that language didn’t have any impact whatsoever on the legislation. It was a statement of belief by one side of the argument, so I wanted that struck. Had it not been struck, I would have argued for placing other language in there that supported the other side.” Others on the task force consented, and McIlyar was asked to delete the four paragraphs in question.
  • Kruntorad succeeded in deleting a paragraph in the ordinance that would allow hotels and motels to designate up to 10 percent of their rooms as smoking rooms. “I’m actually making an argument for your side,” he said, but if that is included in the ordinance, he said, he would argue that it is OK for a restaurant to designate up to 10 percent of the restaurant as a smoking area.
  • There was also discussion, among the side that wanted the total smoking ban, to include in the final version a definition of “e-cigarette.” Kruntorad said task force agreed to exclude e-cigarettes from the ordinance “because there isn’t any scientific data that proved e-cigarettes had a detrimental effect on health.” In the revision that the city attorney sent to task force members on Friday of last week, the definition had struck out the paragraph on e-cigarettes. “The other side wanted to have it unstruck and included, and we decided not to do that,” Kruntorad said.
  • The latest proposed revision of the ordinance had struck language calling for a fine of up to $100 for a first violation, up to $200 on a second violation with a 12-month period, and up to $500 for each additional violation within a 12-month period. In its place was a fine of up to $2,000 per violation. The task force changed that to a fine of $50 for the first offense. The city attorney said there would also be court costs of $50 to $80 accompanying any fine. The task force agreed it would be ideal everyone complied with the smoking ban and no one was ever fined.

“Overall, those of us who opposed the ordinance thought that the language that will be in the final version is impractical for the business owner, and cumbersome for enforcement,” Kruntorad said.

“Partially because an offender, by the time police arrive, has finished the cigarette and has put the butt out, and is gone,” he said.

“People on the other side, I believe their intent was to have a total smoke-free Paris, and I understand their position. I just don’t want to impose that position on our citizens.”

By Charles Richards, eParisExtra

SPONSOR
RDC