HAZARD — By now, the news of Hazard’s recent smoking ban has spread throughout the region. For those who might not already know, the City Commissioners and Mayor Lindon voted unanimously in favor of a non- smoking ordinance on June 28. Enforcement of this new law officially begins on Wednesday, July 6. Here are a few details from the ordinance that might help citizens better understand the smoking ban.
This new law is not county-wide. It only includes the city of Hazard. The ordinance in no way affects smoking inside homes, on privately owned property, or inside vehicles. However, all businesses that are open to the public within city limits are included in the smoking ban, as are public institutions such as government buildings, medical facilities, schools and offices.
The ban is not limited to merely cigarettes. Cigars and chewing tobacco are also prohibited, as well as electronic/vapor cigarettes. All smoking, or tobacco usage, must take place at least 10 feet away from entrances to businesses and public facilities. Institutions reserve the right to enact their own no smoking policies with regulations that are stricter than those in the city’s ordinance, such as HCTC and ARH, where smoking is not permitted anywhere on the property.
Restaurants and bars are included in the smoking ban. Outdoor arenas are part of the ban too. This will be important to remember when watching a show somewhere like the amphitheater beside City Hall.
The ordinance allows for smoking areas to be designated by businesses and employers. However, these smoking areas must meet the guidelines laid-out by the ordinance. There are exceptions to the ordinance’s rules, such as motel suits that are advertised as smoking rooms and reserved only for smokers. Other exceptions are also listed, but people, who think they might be involved in a situation that qualifies for exemption, should read the full ordinance before allowing patrons to fire up a Marlboro in the checkout line because failure to comply with the no smoking law can result in penalty.
People smoking in prohibited areas will risk receiving a fine of no more than $50. If someone refuses to put out a cigarette, or discard a prohibited substance, that person could be asked to leave the premise. At this point, refusal to leave might result in a charge of criminal trespassing.
For those overseeing businesses or public facilities, the fine for breaking the ordinance’s guidelines is no more than $50 with the first offense. The second offense will result in a fine not exceeding $100. Third time offenders face a fine of up to $250. Every offense beyond number three can potentially cost $250, as well. After a full year, violations are stricken from the record, and the person in charge will start back at zero offenses. Entities operating with a special permit, such as businesses that sell alcohol, could have their permits suspended, or even lose their permits altogether, without compliance to the no smoking ordinance.
The ordinance passed unanimously, without debate, at the June 28 meeting. The City Commission highlights health concerns for Hazard’s citizens as a major contributing factor to their vote, as well as the fact that modern retail and economic trends seem to favor this type of environment. Several other cities in Kentucky, including Lexington, passed similar laws long before Hazard.
Citizens opposed to the ordinance argue that imposing such legislation denies free enterprise to establishments that rely heavily on smokers as a customer base and infringes upon a business’s right to choose, on its own, which practice is more profitable. Those who support the ordinance have discussed the positive impact a smoke-free public environment will have on the livelihoods of everyone, especially people with breathing disorders, like asthma, many of whom are children.
Anti-tobacco advocates continue to lobby for a public smoking ban statewide. Kentucky claims the largest number of smokers per capita out of all the states across America. Kentucky also has plenty of room for improvement in health statistics, with the southeastern counties consistently ranking among the worst in the nation for quality of health.
The non-smoking ordinance can be viewed in its entirety at the office of the City Manager or the City Clerk, both of which are located in City Hall. The next Hazard City Commissioners meeting in City Hall is scheduled for July 18 at 7:00 p.m.
Sam Neace is a reporter for the Hazard Herald and can be reached at 606-629-3243 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.