Columbiana looks at possible smoking ban

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The organization behind a proposed ordinance to regulate smoking in Columbiana has its sights set on every municipality in Shelby County.

&uot;It actually is a plan of ours,&uot; said Katrina Brown, drug prevention coordinator for the Shelby County Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Communities. &uot;We’re trying to just go one at a time and not get too ahead of ourselves.&uot;

As a project of Shelby County’s Family Connection, Brown said the coalition’s goal is education, not &uot;pushing policy.&uot; That is the nature of her role in Columbiana’s consideration of an ordinance that would prohibit smoking in any indoor public place, she said.

&uot;We went to the city council and educated them on the dangers of second hand smoke and the benefits of policy,&uot; Brown said. &uot;We just gave them a lot of information.&uot;

The council responded with a proposed policy that would force Columbiana businesses to go smoke-free. A public hearing will be held to discuss the matter at the council’s next regular meeting Tuesday night.

Columbiana’s proposed &uot;Smoke-Free Air Act&uot; includes:

– Prohibits smoking within 50 feet of outdoor stadiums and parks.

– Prohibits smoking within 15 feet of any enclosed public areas.

– Requires &uot;No Smoking&uot; signs in public places and businesses.

– Punishes smokers in violation with a $50 fine.

– Punishes business owners in violation with a $100 fine for a first offense, $200 for a second offense within one year and $500 for each additional violation within one year.

The proposed policy was met with immediate opposition.

Council member Danny Kelley and local business owners voiced concern over the city telling business owners what they can and can’t do on their property.

Columbiana mayor Allan Lowe echoed that concern Monday.

&uot;This ordinance addresses what business owners do in their businesses in regard to an otherwise legal activity – smoking,&uot; Lowe said. &uot;I have strong emotions both ways. But this ordinance, in its current form, seems like its government getting into people’s lives where it has no business.&uot;

The Columbiana Fire Department would be responsible for inspecting businesses for ash trays, a violation of the proposed act, and the city’s police department would be responsible for enforcement, Lowe said.

&uot;If the city adopts this ordinance the way it is written now, it puts us on the slippery slope of possible future regulations and prohibitions of legal substances.&uot;

Lowe said he would not necessarily be opposed to all smoking regulations, however, and said he plans to take a closer look at increasing the distance for smoke-free areas at city parks and stadiums.

City and county buildings in Columbiana are already smoke-free and all tobacco is banned inside city parks.

&uot;We don’t want to infringe on anyone’s rights to smoke,&uot; Brown said. &uot;We just want people to be aware of the dangers of second-hand smoke. We just want to bring that to the attention of the cities.&uot;

Brown said the Shelby County Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Communities has already contacted representatives in Vincent and Harpersville and is also working with a group at Chelsea Middle School.

&uot;We have a group of young people in Chelsea that want to take this on,&uot; she said