Court mulls smoking ban in county

By Lauren Hallow Published:

More than five years after the city enacted a smoking ban, Fiscal Court is considering extending it to all of Franklin County.

“There’s been several citizens over the last few years that’s mentioned it to me,” Judge-Executive Ted Collins told The State Journal Friday.

“I just finally realized that it’s time for county government to step up and do their part.”

During a work session for the county’s 2012-13 budget, Collins asked the court if it would be interested in enacting a county-wide smoking ban, similar to the city’s smoking ordinance that went into effect in August of 2006.

Collins said he was inspired from an action earlier that day, when the court voted 6-1, with Magistrate Lambert Moore dissenting, to pass a “Healthy Eating Policy” for Fiscal Court.

Under the new policy, designed by Deputy Judge Jennifer Wilson, all Fiscal Court sponsored meetings, activities and events will include more healthy food options, and the court’s vending machines will include healthier snacks.

“Since my deputy judge is so involved in healthy food and wellness and she’s been working so hard on that (Wellness) Committee … I think it’s just time we try to protect our citizens from secondhand smoke … when they’re out in public buildings.”

Collins proposed that an ordinance be drafted to ban smoking in buildings open to the general public.

“I’d like to do that,” said Magistrate Jill Robinson. “I would ban it from bars, too.”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Collins said.

Unlike the city’s ordinance, which bans smoking in all public buildings, Collins asked County Attorney Rick Sparks to draft a smoking ban ordinance that would exempt public establishments that only allow patrons 21 and over.

Collins also proposed exempting private businesses and establishments from the ban, an exemption included in the city’s ordinance.

In addition to Robinson, Magistrate Don Sturgeon said he’d support the ordinance, but advised against making it too similar to the city’s.

“We keep trying to make the county the city. People move to the county to get away from the city restrictions,” Sturgeon told the court. “But for the health issue, I’m all for (the ban).”

If the ordinance passes, Franklin County would join 34 other cities and counties in Kentucky that have banned smoking in public places.

In April 2008, researchers from the University of Kentucky College of Nursing and College of Public Health studied air pollution levels in Frankfort and Franklin County and found that Frankfort saw an 81 percent decline in air pollution since enacting its smoking ban.

Researchers also found that indoor air pollution was 2.8 times higher in county establishments that allowed smoking than city businesses where smoking was banned.

But the road to pass the citywide smoking ban wasn’t without controversy.

After months of discussion, City Commission passed the ordinance 3-2, and two days after the ban became law, Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate granted a temporary restraining order. Two weeks later, the judge dissolved the restraining order and denied an injunction against the ban which some local business owners requested.

Shortly after the court’s discussion Friday, Sparks presented magistrates with the proposed ordinance.

“You all have your homework,” he said as he passed it out.

After the meeting, Sparks emphasized the proposal was a rough draft and said he wanted to hand it out as soon as possible to give the court enough time to look it over and suggest changes before the next Fiscal Court meeting on April 12, when Collins said he’d like to have a first reading of the ordinance.

“It needs to have some discussion to make sure it’s what they all want,” Sparks said.

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