Alabaster holding hearing on proposed smoking ban

The Alabaster City Council will be looking for input on a proposed smoking ban at public places and businesses throughout the city during a July 19 public hearing.

The hearing will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Alabaster City Hall Annex on First Street Northwest, and will give Alabaster residents a chance to voice their opinions on the proposed ban.

Alabaster officials have been considering the ban for several years, and recent growth in the city has once again pushed the topic near the top of the city’s priority list, said Ward 1 Councilwoman Sophie Martin.

“We thought this would be a good time to bring it back up, with the way businesses and restaurants have grown in the city,” said Martin, whose ward includes much of the Colonial Promenade shopping center. “And right now, employers and families are looking for ways to reduce their health care costs.

Changing city demographics are also playing into Alabaster’s decision to revisit the smoking ban, Martin said.

“With the way the population has grown, we have a lot more young families with small children in the city,” she said. “A lot of them don’t want their children around second-hand smoke.”

During the July 19 hearing, the council will be looking to hear from those in favor and those opposed to the ban before it decides whether or not to change Alabaster’s smoking ordinance.

If the council does decide to enact a smoking ban, the hearing will help the city decide the conditions of the ban. Currently, Alabaster only bans smoking in city buildings.

“Some restaurants in the city already have smoking bans. We want to hear if that has hurt their business or customer traffic,” Martin said. “We want to hear from others too. How will the ban affect the customers already there?

“Then we will move forward based on what everyone says during the hearing,” Martin added. “We want to make it fair, but we want to do what’s best for the people of Alabaster.”

Over the past several months, Alabaster officials have been studying smoking bans in similar cities, like Prattville and Hoover, where the bans have appeared to “work,” Martin said.

“The intent is to protect the public’s health and wellness,” Martin said. “The way those cities have it laid out seems to do that.”

Hoover’s ordinance bans smoking in most public buildings in the city, in the seating area of outdoor arenas, amphitheaters and stadiums, and within 10 feet of entrances and exits of establishments where smoking is prohibited.

But Hoover’s ordinance allows smoking in many areas, like designated smoking hotel rooms, some bars and private clubs.

Prattville’s ordinance allows the city’s food and beverage establishments to declare themselves “smoking” or “non-smoking,” which determines if smoking will be allowed in the buildings.

Prattville’s “non-smoking” establishments can offer a “smoking” section if the section is isolated from the rest of the restaurant.

“The terms in those ordinances vary,” Martin said. “Some exempt bars and things like that. We don’t know right now if ours would include something like that or not.

“We all need to do our part to reduce healthcare costs,” Martin added. “This is a big step in the right direction.”