Streetsboro -- Tightening regulations for smokers on city property would be taking government one step too far, according to several City Council members.
"I just don't like regulating people into submission," Council member Bridget Pavlick said. "Why make another law if we don't have to? Why put one more restriction on people or businesses that we don't have to?"
City Council member John Ruediger has said he believes restrictions on smoking should be tightened in Streetsboro, as has been done in North Royalton and Strongsville, where people are prohibited from smoking on public property.
Ruediger said he has seen people smoking outside the entrance to Streetsboro City Hall, which could violate the law.
Ohio law does not specifically define how many feet a smoker must be from the entrance of a public building, but "it does mean that smokers must be located at a sufficient distance to ensure that smoke does not enter the building through points of ingress or egress to that building," according to Assistant Law Director Matthew Vazzana.
The first violation of any law under Ohio's Smoke Free Workplace Act calls for a warning letter to the city or the individual committing the infraction, while the penalty is a $100 fine for any further violations to the person caught smoking, Vazzana said.
Law Director David Maistros said the state code is enforceable in a community -- "today, yesterday and a month from now" -- whether that law has been adopted or not by a city.
Ruediger, who brought up the topic for discussion March 10, said strengthening the policy might encourage smokers to make more conscientious choices about where they light up.
"I really believe this is progressive and something that I'd like to see our city consider, and I think it would move us forward," Ruediger said. "I really do think, with it being a safety and health issue, it's something we should positively promote in the city."
Council member Regis Faivre believes there is no reason to pass "an extra law for something we really don't need."
"You need to actually talk to these people [in North Royalton and Strongsville] -- not just what you read here [on their city's printouts] -- because you're going to find out [the laws] don't work anyway," Faivre said.
Resident Chuck Kocisko told Ruediger he was "overreaching."
"It's too much government," Kocisko said. "You're trying to put in another law [that we don't need]. When you take these people who may have been smokers for the last 30, 40, 50 years and tell them you can't smoke out there, [it's not easy to enforce]. Most of the time, if you tell these folks who are smoking to walk away, they're going to walk away."
Kocisko said he wants to see "our police officers catching the bad guys" not going after smokers.
Pavlick agreed, saying it would add needless duties for officers "cruising the soccer, baseball and football games [looking for people smoking]."
Pavlick also believes it would "put a big dent" in outdoor events like Streetsboro Family Days by discouraging people from attending, adding she's not in favor of strengthening anti-smoking regulations on city property.
"I'm not a smoker, but I grew up in a house with smokers," Pavlick said. "It's a lot different than it used to be. That's why I suggest we look at what we have and modify it and allow people to have some responsibility for themselves. We don't want to overdo this. I can't get real behind this [idea to increase regulations]."
Council President Julie Field said she doesn't think the city needs to pursue new policies, adding, "We have some policies in place."
Even Ruediger admitted, "I've never been in favor of making anybody a criminal out of this."
The issue was moved to Council's April 14 safety committee meeting.
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