Council puts off smoking proposal

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The city has decided not to put the question of banning smoking in public places on November's ballot.

Those who support and oppose the measure have requested more time to research the issue, city officials said.

On July 20, the City Council directed staff to work on language for a November ballot issue that would have banned smoking. The council did not indicate how far the smoking ban should reach and whether it would require nonsmoking sections in restaurants or ban smoking on public streets and parks.

City Manager Paul Hughes said the group who proposed the smoking ban wanted more time to get the community involved and to educate the public. Those who opposed the ban also wanted more time for the city to study all the implications regulations would have.

"They would like more time to talk through the issues and implications, so council will do that with the possibility of doing something next November. This November was just too (soon)," he said.

To get a question on November's ballot, the city would have to have the first reading of an ordinance by Aug. 17. A smoking ban does not need voter approval to be put in place. It could be enacted through a city ordinance.

The city already has in place an ordinance that does not allow smoking inside any city facility. Smoking is still allowed outside in areas such as parks. In 1992, the city also supported a resolution supporting efforts to make the city a smoke-free community.

Judy Hiester, the Tobacco Prevention Program coordinator for the Visiting Nurse Association, was among those who thought more time was needed before moving forward with a smoking ban.

"It is best to take the time to do that process of gathering information ... before moving toward a ballot issue or something else," Hiester said.

The group wants to educate the public on the effects of second-hand smoke and to get the public's view.

Hiester stressed that the group that is looking to put measures in place is in the beginning phase and is not sure how it will grow but said the issue will not go away.

"Smoking is a public health issue. That is first and foremost," she said. "It is putting valuable persons, workers at risk."

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