By a 4-3 vote, Fiscal Court passed an ordinance Friday banning smoking in county public establishments, including bars and restaurants but exempting private businesses/organizations, tobacco warehouses or retail tobacco stores.
Magistrates Phillip Kring, Larry Perkins and Lambert Moore voted “no” at Friday’s meeting. Moore said passing the ban would put “a foot in the door” to other types of bans. While noting he didn’t think the court would do anything this extreme, he equated the ban to a situation he read about in Colorado, where a school district recently banned sugar.
Perkins said he based his vote on a phone survey he conducted with members of his district.
“Ten percent of smokers conceded it’s going to happen statewide, so they understand, and five percent of smokers said, ‘Yea, go ahead,’ but 85 percent of nonsmokers … said ‘If I go out here and spend my capital to open a business … I ought to be able to run it the way I want,’” Perkins said. “They kept telling me (they want) smaller government.”
When Judge-Executive Ted Collins originally proposed the ban at the March 23 work session, he asked that bars be excluded. But at the ordinance’s first reading April 12, Collins extended the ban to all public businesses, including bars, a decision Kring opposed.
“I think anyone over 21 can make a decision whether they want to go into a place (where) people smoke or don’t smoke,” Kring said at the meeting. “For that reason, I’m going to have to vote no.”
According to the ordinance, people found smoking in public places could be fined up to $50.
Owners and employees who fail to comply with the ordinance can be fined up to $50 for their first violation, up to $100 for their second and up to $250 for each additional offense, if the subsequent violations occur within a year of the first.
County Attorney Rick Sparks asked the court to send letters to county businesses and establishments alerting them of the new ordinance. The ordinance technically went into effect immediately with Friday’s vote, but to allow time for businesses and the public to become aware of the new ban, Sparks told The State Journal those violating the ordinance within the next 30 days would only receive warnings.
The ordinance is complaint driven, Sparks said, so violations should be reported to Collins.
No one from the public attended Friday’s meeting to support or protest the ordinance. At its first reading, several residents and representatives from the American Cancer Society and American Lung Association voiced support of the ban.
At that meeting, Collins said he had received calls from several supporting the ban and none from concerned business owners or smokers.