People who enjoy lighting up in a bar or private club in Columbus should enjoy it now, because that is likely to be extinguished.
Most members of the Columbus City Council support a stronger city smoking ordinance, which currently follows state law.
State law provides certain exemptions, including for bars, private clubs, casinos and horse racing facilities.
Passage of a local smoking ordinance in 2005, which took effect in 2006 and was similar to the current state law passed in July, drew heated opposition then. But at a special City Council meeting Monday at City Hall, the only people who showed up were those who favored a stronger ordinance.
Councilman Ryan Brand said the lack of opposition reflects changing attitudes toward smoking, and is a sign that the time is right to pass a stricter local smoking ordinance.
“The private sector has begun the process of removing smoking from establishments. I think smokers who enjoy smoking at establishments see the writing on the wall,” Brand said.
Brand said he’d like to see smoking restricted in private clubs and bars, and to discuss how a restriction should be applied to the city’s public transit stops. Semi-enclosed places where people wait for buses would be easier to regulate than open-air stops, he said.
Open-air bus stops and places such as city parks might require a city policy more than an ordinance, Brand added. Signs could be posted that those places are designated smoke-free, although enforcement would differ compared to places covered by a local ordinance.
Brand’s support of a stronger local smoking ordinance, however, is driven by public health concerns.
“I think, principally, it’s about indoor air quality of employees and the choices they have,” Brand said.
Councilman Jim Lienhoop shared Brand’s thoughts, saying he “favors a stronger local smoking ordinance that would prohibit smoking in all places of employment, including bars and clubs.” And while he would like transit depots to be smoke-free, he said the Council needs to “be cautious about the extent we reach.”
Lienhoop suggested using no-smoking signs in some areas, but said if those prove ineffective then the Council could revisit strengthening the ordinance.
Councilman Frank Jerome said he wants a level playing field for establishments.
“I want all bars, restaurants and private clubs to be the same, no smoking allowed,” he said.
Jerome also wants smoking prohibited at the transit depot and Mill Race Center, and in an 8-foot circle around bus stops. He said those restrictions were lost when the Council struck down the local ordinance on Aug. 21.
All areas where people, and especially children, congregate should be smoke-free, Jerome added. That would include the People Trails and special city events like Ethnic Expo. Signs would be used to ask people not to smoke.
Councilmen Tim Shuffett, Frank Miller and Dascal Bunch told Monday’s crowd that they favor a stronger local ordinance that closes the gaps in state law, such as bars, private clubs and the transit depot.
“It’s time to close some of the loopholes that we’ve lost and kind of tighten that up from the state code,” Miller said.
Bunch said he’d support restrictions beyond the bars, clubs and transit depot.
“I wouldn’t mind seeing us go smoke-free everywhere,” he said.
Aaron Hankins is the only councilman who does not support a stronger smoking ordinance in the city. He believes that the role of local government should be protecting property, and a stronger smoking ordinance would infringe upon private property rights and individual rights.
He prefers a different type of enforcement.
“I believe that individuals, families, churches and communities are the best force and best advocate to stop smoking. ...I don’t believe we should be using the force of government to infringe upon individual liberty and property rights,” Hankins said at Monday’s meeting.
The administrator of a local fraternal organization which permits smoking said prohibiting smoking in bars and private clubs would mean a loss of revenue and probably membership for his organization.
“I’ve been through states that went completely non-smoking, and it closes a lot of businesses, including clubs,” said Jay Flach, the Moose’s administrator. “Clubs that have got the money right now can survive through it, but those that don’t will close. I see bars the same way.”
The Moose made changes to its policies about where smoking is allowed in its building, at 330 Eighth St., so that now the only place it is allowed is in the social quarters, where one must be 21 to be permitted.
Flach said the state law is pretty tough as it is, and probably will pass a comprehensive smoking law in the future, so the city should leave the issue alone.
Because about 20 people showed up at Monday’s meeting and no one voiced opposition to a stronger ordinance, the Council wants to give the public another chance to share their views before taking any actions.
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