Wednesday, March 6, 2013

City moves toward smoke-free law

Mayor: Council is striking balance for good policy


By BRENNAN REGO
Express Staff Writer

Ketchum has taken the first step toward passing an ordinance that would protect employees, residents and visitors from exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke and e-cigarette “vapor” in the city. According to Mayor Randy Hall, the City Council is striking a “good balance” between over- and under-legislating the issue.

The council on Monday unanimously approved the first of up to three readings of an ordinance that would prohibit smoking in a long list of public areas throughout the city. Violation of the proposed ordinance would be punishable by fines starting at $50.

Idaho law states that before a municipality can adopt an ordinance, it must be read on three days. However, if the majority of a council votes to do so, it may dispense with the reading rule and adopt an ordinance after the first reading. Generally, cities dispense with the rule on less controversial issues, but conduct all three readings—allowing for public comment—on more boat-rocking topics.
The council directed city staff members to draft the ordinance after representatives of Boise-based nonprofit Smokefree Idaho made a presentation supporting such an ordinance at a council meeting in January. Smokefree Idaho spurred the adoption of similar legislation in Boise in November 2011.

At the meeting Monday, the council members weighed the pros and cons of prohibiting smoking in different city locations. They agreed it was most important to control smoking in indoor, enclosed areas open to the public. They also agreed to control smoking in all city buildings and at all city facilities—including parks—in motel and hotel rooms, at transit stops and in “unenclosed” outdoor patios that people must walk through to travel between various locations. However, they agreed outlawing smoking near doorways to businesses would be unenforceable and did not include that in the law.

In an interview after the meeting, Hall said some of the town’s residents have complained about secondhand smoke and want their officials to protect their health.

“I get that,” he said. “But I also want to make sure government doesn’t go too far. I think the City Council did an excellent job of finding that balance. I think they’re really striking a good balance that will lead to a good policy.”
Brennan Rego: brego@mtexpress.com




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