Council says: no smoking

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Opelika bans smoking of e-cigarettes in public places

By Alison James

Associate Editor

The battle on how to address the public use of electronic cigarettes has raged practically since the device’s inception, but the Opelika City Council took measures Tuesday to prevent their use in public places.

The ordinance, accepted unanimously by the council, amends various sections of Article II of Chapter 11 of the city code. It cites 18 studies or factual points as to the necessity of prohibiting smoking in public places, including statements like, “tobacco smoke is a major contributor to indoor air pollution,” “The Public Health Service’s National Toxicology Program (NTP) has listed secondhand smoke as a known carcinogen,” “Secondhand smoke is particularly hazardous to elderly people,” “More than one study has concluded that exposure to vapor from electronic smoking devices may cause passive or second-hand vaping,” and “The use of electronic smoking devices in smokefree locations threatens to undermine compliance with smoking regulations and reverse the progress that has been made.”

“I would point out that … has been broadened somewhat and includes smoking, which includes electronic smoking devices – all forms of smoking – will be prohibited in buildings and facilities owned, operated or controlled by the city or any agency of the city,” said city attorney Guy Gunter. “That’s something new.”

Smoking in all forms will also be prohibited in any place of recreation or entertainment, including sports fields, stdiums, gymnasiums, theaters, concert halls and swimming pools.

“It will not be legal to smoke out at West Ridge Park,” Gunter said. “It won’t be legal to smoke out on the frisbee golf course at the Sportsplex or the soccer fields.”

Jones pointed out that these changes will need to be highly publicized because it will be difficult for people to adjust to the new laws. Gunter said the notices will be published and that the city would likely post “No Smoking” signs.

Controversy reigned during the council’s work session, particularly in regards to a proposed ordinance to raise some cemetery rates.

“The only thing we’re addressing is the rate for opening and closing,” Public Works Director Mike Hilyer said.

Councilwoman Patsy Jones expressed her concerns about the ordinance, which follows on the heels of an ordinance to raise some cemetery rates in November 2013.

“Why are we making a change in less than a year?” Jones asked. “The concern I have … is (in) less than a year, we’re going up again. What is causing us to have to go up? Are we increasing the services we’re giving citizens? … That’s a great concern.”

Although President Eddie Smith initially suggested Hilyer pare down the ordinance to remove any misconceptions about what was being addressed, Jones said the inclusion of those sections was not what was confusing to her.

“The reason we’re going up more,” Smith said, “is because it costs more to deliver the service.”

“Why did we not see the need for the increase (when we raised other costs in November?)” Jones asked. “I have been inundated with calls … and I didn’t even know what they were talking about. I had no idea we were getting ready to change (this rate).”

The council eventually requested that Hilyer reconstruct the ordinance to focus specifically on the increases being requested, listing both the current rate and the suggested increase, and to include justification for the increase.

The council also:

– held thirteen public hearings on assessments of demolition costs, and accordingly assessed the costs of those demolitions.

– approved three bids for upgrading and installing substation fencing; a contract for police equipment; and a contract for police uniforms.

– heard Mayor Gary Fuller recognize Pro-Bono month and the police officers of the month, Justin Frost and Zachary Causland.

– granted temporary street closures for parades and events.

– reappointed Chuck Wacker to the library board and Kenneth Burton to the Youth Development Board.

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