Troy council votes to ban public smoking throughout city

Published 11:00 pm Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Troy Council President Johnny Witherington speaks at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

There will soon be no more smoking in public places in Troy.

After a public hearing at Tuesday night’s meeting, the city council voted unanimously to pass the Smoke Free Air Ordinance of 2013. The ordinance will prevent all smoking in public places, including bars, restaurants, work sites and anywhere else members of the public area allowed to go. Smoking will be permitted in private homes, vehicles and more than 20 feet outside entrances and exits of public buildings.

No current establishment will be grandfathered in or exempt from the ordinance.

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The ordinance will go into effect as soon as it is published for record. City Clerk Alton Starling said he expects that to happen no later than Friday.

At the public hearing, no one spoke in opposition of the ordinance, but three people did voice support for the idea.

“Everybody has the right to breathe clean air,” said Ginny Campbell who works with the American Cancer Society’s government relations department.

Campbell said that food and water are regulated, and she believes air should be, too.

Lamar Daniels said he hopes the city goes a step further in the future to eliminate all tobacco use in public. His concern was founded in watching people spit tobacco near playgrounds and at ball fields.

“It shouldn’t be allowed any place in the city,” Daniels said.

Rosalyn Vaughn was the last to speak and shared an emotional story about how alcohol and tobacco destroyed her family through disease and life-changing events.

“My family’s experience with alcohol and tobacco has been deadly,” Vaughn said. “I support, whole-heartedly, any legislation that regulates alcohol and tobacco use.”

Since April, Council President Johnny Witherington has passionately spoken about the need for a stricter smoking ordinance, first suggesting a ban on water pipes and then smoking as a whole. Witherington said he was proud to see the ordinance pass with the backing of every council member.

“It strengthens the ordinance we passed in 2006,” Witherington shared. “It is truly a good day for public health in Troy.”

Councilwoman Dejerilyn King Henderson was an early supporter of business owners who plan to open a cafe and hookah lounge in downtown Troy. And while she wasn’t a backer of a smoking ordinance amendment that would ban the use of only water pipes, she said she couldn’t argue with a complete smoking ban. Henderson also said she doesn’t feel the ban will be detrimental to businesses where smoking is currently allowed.

“I have utmost confidence that every existing business will continue to thrive,” Henderson said.

Councilman Marcus Paramore said his constituents certainly made their voices heard during the process of contemplating the ordinance.

“One of my concerns, initially, was how the ordinance would affect existing businesses and how they would operate,” Paramore said. “But there was overwhelming response from my constituents that they supported a smoking ban. I think it is a relief to a lot of folks that the issue has been resolved.”

Paramore said places such as Cheers and The Front Porch should be able to adapt existing outdoor deck spaces to accommodate smokers and still be in compliance with the law. Establishments such as the Double Branchwill be able to add a smoker’s area outside and continue to serve both smokers and non-smokers.

Richard Jones, owner of Aposha Cafe and Hookah Lounge, has been involved in the smoking ordinance conversation since the beginning. That’s because talks began after he applied for a liquor license for his establishment that would make water pipes available to customers. Jones said he still plans to serve hookah in an outdoor patio area that would be in compliance with the law’s requirements.

“The ordinance allowed us to diversify the business,” Jones shared after Tuesday night’s meeting. “It won’t help business, but it won’t hurt us that badly.”

Also at Tuesday night’s meeting, the council voted to approve a bid award for a 311 system to Q Send; to allow Goodwyn Mills and Cawood to apply for and administrate a grant for obstruction removal on runway 25 at the Troy Municipal Airport; to rename Walters Street to Johnnie Mae Warren Avenue; to award a bid in the amount of $220,751 to J.A. Dawson Construction for work on the Miracle League Playground; and to approve a change order for the playground.