Thursday, June 21, 2018

Murray City Council passes a smoking ban on 8-2 vote, but the mayor, who pledged to pass it, says it could still be 'tweaked'

Murray City Council members voted 8-2 on June 14 to prohibit smoking in all public places and places of employment within the city limits, but John Wright reports for the Murray Ledger & Times that it may not be a "done deal." After about an hour of debate, Mayor Jack Rose suggested that the council pass the ban, but leave the issue open. (Wright's story is behind a paywall.)

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“I think we need to go ahead and pass it tonight, then come back and tweak it if need be,” Rose said. “I’m interested in listening if someone has an idea to make this the best situation we can find. If we see that there’s an element of difficulty with it, then we can look at it later.”

The ordinance, which is set to take effect in September, prohibits the smoking of cigarettes, as well as electronic cigarettes and vapor devices, in parking lots and areas within 15 feet of entrances, windows and ventilation systems. In restaurants and bars there must be a 15-foot buffer between outdoor seating and serving areas, and the rules also apply for numerous outdoor areas, Taylor Inman reports for WKMS-FM.

"Heartfelt congratulations to Mayor Jack Rose," Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, said in a news release. "He committed to getting it done before he retired. And, by gosh, he has done that! Even better, the ordinance that he was able to shepherd through to passage follows all the guidelines for truly making a difference in the health of those who live, play and work in Murray."

Local restaurant owners voiced opposition to the ban. Ron Gladden, owner of the Big Apple Cafe, one of only six restaurants in Murray that still permits smoking, told the council that smokers often outnumber non-smokers in his restaurant, and non-smokers had 62 non-smoking restaurants in the area to choose from.

“The citizens of Murray and Calloway [County] essentially vote every day on where they want to eat," Gladden said, adding that at the Big Apple, "the vote" is pretty clear. “I don’t believe it is the city council’s right to make decisions on smoking. It should be the business owners and the citizens of Murray, Kentucky," he said.

Robin Floyd, a longtime radiologist at the local hospital and also the owner of Tap 216, a restaurant that allows smoking, acknowledged that smoking is unhealthy, but said he thought restaurants that had created ways to separate the smokers from the non-smokers should be allowed to "opt-out" of the ordinance.

Supporters of the ordinance also spoke out. Local hospital CEO Jerry Penner said he had worked to strengthen smoke-free rules at the facility over the past two years, and though he recognized how hard these rules are for smokers, he said, "I think we have to err or the side of health here."

Penner also pointed out that far Western Kentucky, including Murray, ranks first in the state for lung cancer cases and deaths from it. “I’m tired of burying people," he said.

Rose, citing studies proving the danger of secondhand smoke, said the ordinance is needed to improve health in the city, Kentucky's 20th largest. “Let’s just say they get all kinds of secondhand smoke and are lucky and don’t get cancer or some other kind of disease because of that,” Rose said. They’re still more comfortable, so we’re making a comfort level.” Here is a video report from Paducah's WPSD-TV.

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