Smoking law changes extinguished by Council

by Bob Gaetjens | Editor Published:

A proposal to strengthen the city's anti-smoking regulations, which would have banned lighting up at sports activities, failed to gain traction in City Council.

City Council voted 4-3 May 12 not to pursue changes to the law which would have strengthened restrictions against smoking on city-owned property.

A draft of proposed legislation would have included a smoking ban "in any outdoor public place owned and controlled by the city where scheduled recreational activities take place, such as softball, baseball or soccer."

Had it been adopted, the drafted legislation would have prohibited smoking "on or near any playing fields, concession stands, bleachers, dugouts or bench areas" and made smoking too close to these areas a misdemeanor.

Instead the city will continue to live under Ohio law, which bans smoking in workplaces and other enclosed public places.

A motion to retain the city's existing law regarding smoking passed with Council members Bridget Pavlick, Regis Faivre, Steve Michniak and Julie Field voting for it. Voting against the motion were Council members Tim Claypoole, Jeff Allen and John Ruediger. Michniak said he believes the drafted legislation would have enacted a strict ban in all city buildings and on all city properties, with few exceptions.

"I read [section 3 of the draft law] as an outright ban on smoking outside on any public land, unless the mayor, safety director or fire chief has specific areas designated [for smoking] by him."

Ruediger, who brought the topic before Council several months ago, said he does not believe the law would have been so restrictive. He said hoped people at sporting and parks and recreation programs would be protected by the law from having to experience second-hand smoke."

"The way I read it, is that smoking can be limited to areas the mayor and safety director or fire chief designated," he said, arguing that someone walking their dog may be permitted to smoke while doing so because the proposed law restrict smoking in areas "where scheduled activities are scheduled."

Faivre said if Streetsboro wants to restrict smoking in parks where baseball games take place, it may have to restrict alcohol, as well.

"In my opinion, you're going to have to add alcohol to this, too," said Faivre. "If you're going to attack one, you're going to have to attack both."

Law Director David Maistros said enforcement would have been tricky. He said it should start with another person in the public space requesting the smoker move away or extinguish the cigarette.

"The problem that you have with this is that you don't necessarily want to have our police officers turning up at every soccer game," he said. "Their resources may be better used elsewhere."

Former Council member Bob Hager said he feels the restriction of smoking on city property would be impossible to enforce.

"You can't enforce the laws you've got right now on cigarettes," he told Council. "You're not supposed to throw butts out of windows, but you can probably pick up a gallon of them at the end of some driveways."

Resident Carmen Laudato said smoking near City Hall helps promote a negative image of the city and said bans have been enacted elsewhere.

"A lot of communities are trending toward smoking bans," she said. "This not something nobody's heard of. We're not asking you to create a UFO parking zone."

Mayor Glenn Broska, who wasn't in favor of the legislation, said he believes most smokers try to be sensitive those within range of second-hand smoke during activities.

"Many people said they have not run into a problem at any of the venues at the city," he said. "If they have, they've spoken to the individual, and that person graciously moved themselves or put out the cigarette."

For the foreseeable future, civility and common sense will be the regulators of smokers in outdoor public areas in Streetsboro.

Email: bgaetjens@recordpub.com

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