Glasgow mulling decision to go smoke-free

By ROBYN L. MINOR, The Daily News, rminor@bgdailynews.com/783-3249
Thursday, March 18, 2010 11:49 AM CDT

If Glasgow approves a smoking ban ordinance on second reading Monday, it will be the first city in the region to do so.

“We are very excited about the possibility and hoping (passage) will make it possible for other places to go smoke-free,” said Joyce Adkins, health educator at the Barren River District Health Department and a member of the Kentucky Agency for Substance Abuse Policy board in Barren County.

The measure passed narrowly on a first vote this month, with Mayor Darrell Pickett breaking a tie vote.

But since that meeting, public opposition to the ordinance, which would ban smoking in every public building, has been galvanized, at least according to Councilman Doug Isenberg.

Isenberg said after his vote against the ordinance, residents began asking if there was a petition they could sign in opposition.

“So I developed one,” he said. “I have spent about three hours gathering signatures. I think on Monday we will have as many signatures against the ordinance as the proponents had for it – about 600.”

Isenberg said he even had 50 people at the smoke-free McDonald’s sign the petition, many of them nonsmokers.

“We should not have interference of government in private business,” he said.

But Adkins said a vote in favor of the ban would be a progressive one that recognizes the good it would do for public health.

“This was a big push in and of itself for Glasgow that has been working on the issue for a number of years,” she said. “The time was just right.”

Councilman Freddie Norris, one of the ordinance sponsors, said more than 90 percent of 600 people surveyed by one member of the council favored the ordinance. Norris sponsored the ordinance because of the impact that secondhand smoke has on people, particularly children who often have no choice about whether they are around smokers. He grew up with a chain-smoking father and was a pharmacist for years, seeing the health effects.

Still, Glasgow business owner Janet Sadler said those personal stories and backgrounds shouldn’t influence the council vote, rather they should listen to what citizens want.

“My biggest problem is that it’s a direct violation of my constitutional rights,” said Sadler, who owns Rascal Deli.

Sadler said she has a separate smoking section with a good exhaust system.

“Customers in the nonsmoking section say they can’t smell the smoke,” she said. “And I have a sign on my door that says smoking is allowed so that if people have problems with that or have health issues, they don’t have to come in.”

Sadler said it ought to be a business decision, not a government decision, to go smoke-free.

But she also takes issue that the ordinance is just citywide and not countywide.

“There is a restaurant four miles down the road from me where they can smoke,” she said. “So customers who want to smoke will just go there.”

Sadler said she doesn’t know for sure that going smoke-free would hurt business. But that’s really not the point, she said.

“As an owner of a building, the government is infringing on my rights trying to tell me what I can or can’t do,” she said. “I have never voiced one complaint about the controls the government places on the preparation of food – that’s important, but I feel like this is going too far.”

More businesses across the region are making the personal decision to go smoke-free, without a government ban.

Paul Durbin, owner of Judy’s Castle in Bowling Green, said his restaurant went smoke-free Feb. 1.

“When you own your own business, you ought to be able to make that decision yourself,” Durbin said. “I didn’t want the government to tell me I had to.”

The decision was a good business move for him.

“It has really helped our business,” he said. “There are a lot of people who have come back and we see more families with children coming in.”

Durbin said he gets more professionals coming in for breakfast who previously stayed away because they didn’t want the smell of smoke in their clothes all day long.

“If I had known business could have been this good, I probably would have done it 10 years ago,” he said.

If Glasgow’s ordinance passes, it will be effective in 90 days. The Glasgow Police Department would be in charge of issuing citations for violations of the ordinance. Fines for smokers would be $25 for the first offense, $100 for the second and $250 for the third and subsequent offenses. Businesses that allow smoking would have their fines doubled.

Police Chief Horace Johnson said no one on the council has really discussed with him how his department would handle enforcement.

Johnson said he would need to become more familiar with the ordinance to decide how the department would “police” it.

Sadler is encouraging residents on both sides of the issue to show up for Monday’s meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. on the second floor of city hall.

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