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Six months in, smoking ban is having effect

This weekend—specifically, Saturday, Jan. 4—is the six-month anniversary of the day Excelsior Springs’ smoking ban went into effect.

And Police Chief John McGovern said recently there have been some enforcement activities related to the ban.

“The police department is currently enforcing the ‘smoking ordinance’ based on complaints we receive,” McGovern said.

Several complaints have been logged, he added.

“Two businesses have been given a copy of the ordinance and advised that we plan on taking enforcement action if they do not comply with the city ordinance, including proper signage near entrance doors,” McGovern explained. “Another complaint was investigated, no evidence of violations was found and no action was taken by the police department.”

The ban, which went into effect July 4, 2013, after its passage by the city council a month earlier, effectively bans smoking inside businesses and other enclosed public spaces. The ban extends to a small buffer around the main entrances of those buildings, as well.

Private homes are exempt, even if they contain businesses or if the homeowner has hired employees. Also exempt are businesses that derive more than 80 percent of their gross receipts from tobacco products or paraphernalia, but no such businesses currently exist in Excelsior Springs.

There are also exemptions for establishments that have specially-ventilated smoking areas where no one under the age of 18 is allowed, as well as for up to 25 percent of the rooms in a hotel.

However, private clubs are included in the law, because many of them have employees whose health is ostensibly protected by the ordinance, and virtually all of them host at least occasional public events.

Fines range from up to $50 for a person who lights up where smoking isn’t allowed, to a graduated scale for establishments that allow people to smoke—up to $100 for a first violation, up to $200 for a second one and up to $500 for any violations after that.

A copy of the entire ordinance is available for review online at www.cityofesmo.com/pdflibrary/SmokingOrdinance_060313.pdf

The law was written and passed after voters approved the concept of a smoking ban in April 2013. A series of public meetings and two readings of the ordinance followed, and there was no small amount of controversy in the lead-up to approval, as vocal opponents—and a few proponents—filled the council chambers to express a wide variety of opinions.

The Clay County Public Health Center lauded the city for the smoking ordinance and other healthy-related measures during 2013.

McGovern added that while the number of establishments which have been the target of complaints has been relatively small, officers wouldn’t be filing the cases away and forgetting about them.

“I would expect that follow-up action by the police department on these complaints will begin no later than mid-January,” he said.

However, he noted that there have been plenty of businesses which have gone along with the new law.

“We have observed a number of businesses that have voluntarily complied with the ordinance,” he said, “including some that were very vocal against the ordinance in meetings leading up to its passage.”

By Eric Copeland • eric@leaderpress.com

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