Weatherford Democrat

January 15, 2014

Divided city council takes step toward smoking ban

Council in 3-2 vote directs staff to craft ordinance banning smoking in public places, food establishments


Weatherford Democrat

— By BRIAN SMITH

By a 3-2 vote Tuesday, Weatherford City Council members directed city staff to begin crafting a public no-smoking ordinance.

Council members Heidi Wilder and Jeff Robinson, along with Mayor Dennis Hooks, voted for the measure while Mayor Pro Tem Craig Swancy and councilman Waymon Hamilton voted against the measure. After a lengthy discussion on both sides of the issue, Robinson made the motion, with Wilder seconding, to ban smoking inside buildings where food is served. Anyone wishing to smoke can go to a patio or outdoors, Robinson said.

City parks will not be included in the smoking ban ordinance, but rather a ban on smoking in parks will be made a policy of the city’s parks department. Making it a parks department policy allows any city employee who sees someone smoking in a park to confront the individual and ask them to stop

smoking. If the individual refuses to quit after being asked to stop, it then becomes a criminal trespass violation, according to City Manager Jerry Blaisdell.

If no smoking in city parks was part of an ordinance, it would only be enforceable by the police department, Blaisdell said. Signs about the no smoking policy will be coming into city parks, he said.

Robinson brought the proposal of a no smoking ordinance to the council during its December meeting, stating at that time a number of people had contacted him asking for some sort of ordinance.

“One person smoking has an unpleasant effect on a number of people,” Robinson said Tuesday night. “Many of the ventilation systems are inadequate.”

City staff at that time were directed to talk to restaurants to get opinions on what kind of impact a no smoking ordinance would have on businesses.

Seven of the 14 restaurants surveyed by city staff said such an ordinance would have a negative impact, officials said. Two said it would have no impact and three didn’t respond to repeated calls.

When asked if they were in favor or opposed to the ordinance, four said they were in favor, four opposed, and two were not authorized to say, the staff report stated.

Hamilton, a non-smoker himself, said that many restaurants that presently allow smoking could have problems meeting their “bottom line” if they all of a sudden become non-smoking.

“I really don’t want to infringe on that,” Hamilton said.

Swancy agreed with Wilder’s original idea of having establishments that do allow smoking post signs stating that so non-smokers would know. Swancy said he has operated a non-smoking business for 36 years and has had two people complain about it.

“It’s not my policy to tell someone whether they should smoke or not. I believe that’s something for the individual businesses to decide,” Swancy said.

Fire Marshal Bob Hopkins told the council that smoking is an addiction and cities trying to regulate it “have opened up a can of worms” by doing so.

“Smokers are going to smoke. Period,” Hopkins said. “People are tired of being regulated to death. It’s a lot like if you don’t like a TV show that’s on, you change the channel. If there’s a party and you don’t like someone that’s there, you leave. It’s the same principle that if someone is smoking and you don’t like it, you leave.”

No decision was made on when a proposed ordinance would be discussed.