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Smoking ban enforcement to start July 4

Smokers have less than one week left to enjoy a cigarette or cigar at their favorite tobacco-friendly businesses and public places.

Starting on Thursday, July 4, a new prohibition against tobacco smoke in any enclosed business or public space inside the city limits of Excelsior Springs will take effect, and enforcement will begin.

The ordinance banning smoking in virtually every non-private building in the community was approved by a unanimous vote of the Excelsior Springs City Council on June 3, and at the time city officials announced that a 30-day period would then begin to allow the affected parties to begin making the transition to smoke-free status. Recently, a July 3 date was publicized, but since the ordinance was approved the evening of June 3, City Manager David Haugland confirmed on Wednesday that the actual date when enforcement will begin is July 4.

The ordinance’s enactment followed about a month’s worth of debate, including two sessions of the council during which public input was received. The lion’s share of the testimony came from representatives of businesses and clubs, disputing the city’s ability to dictate what people did in their own businesses. Most of these individuals allowed smoking in their establishments; a few did not, but still stated a strong belief in the freedom to choose between smoking and non-smoking.

Some, such as Atlas Saloon owner Jim McCullough and various representatives of both the Elks Lodge and the Clay-Ray Veterans Hall, said they were concerned that the smoking ban would at the very least hinder their ability to remain solvent, and possibly even force them to close their doors.

The meetings also included input from other local and area residents who praised the smoking ban, saying that the community’s health would improve and that the businesses and clubs would adapt to the change.

Despite passionate testimony over the two meetings, when the council met on June 3 to approve the final draft of the ordinance the only change was a reduction in a “buffer zone” around the main entrance of a building where smoking would be prohibited. The original version of the ordinance established a 25-foot distance, but the final version shrank that buffer zone to 10 feet. Smoking would be allowed outside other doors, which gives the business or club the opportunity to offer a smoking section outdoors for employees or customers.

The ban also includes public transportation and service lines, among other places.

Private residences are not covered by the ban, and hotels and motels may permanently designate up to 25 percent of their rooms for smoking customers. In addition, any business where more than 80 percent of the gross receipts come from tobacco sales, products or activities is exempt from the smoking ban, but no such businesses currently exist in Excelsior Springs.

The ordinance also exempts buildings with separate heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment that prevents air from non-smoking and smoking areas to mix, as well as those that do not allow anyone under the age of 18 into a smoking area, but those exemptions do not apply to any business that sells or serves food or alcoholic beverages.

Penalties range from a $50 fine for an individual who violates the ordinance, to an escalating scale for a person responsible for a business or public place who allows smoking to take place—$100 for a first violation, $200 for a second violation in the same year and $300 for third and subsequent violations in the same year. However, the number of violations will be determined by the number of days in which smoking takes place, not the number of people smoking.

A copy of the ordinance is available online at http://www.cityofesmo.com/pdflibrary/SmokingOrdinance_060313.pdf.

By Eric Copeland • eric@leaderpress.com

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