The smoking ban in Buckhannon's public parks and recreational areas will take effect 30 days from its approval Thursday at Buckhannon City Council - in plenty of time to be enforced during the West Virginia Strawberry Festival.
In addition to cigarettes and smokeless tobacoo, the ban also encompasses electronic smoking devices.
Concerns were aired prior to the ordinance's unanimous approval on second and final reading. Councilmen Scott Preston and John Waltz were unable to attend.
Rick Edwards, who films the meetings later to be aired on Channel 3 in Upshur County, stepped away from the camera long enough to express his opposition to parts of the ordinance. Edwards said that although he is a smoker, he supports banning tobacco products in public parks and recreational areas.
Edwards said he has an issue with the inclusion of electronic cigarettes, because they aren't technically a tobacco product.
"I don't believe it belongs in your ordinance," Edwards said. "If you ban nicotine devices, you would also have to ban patches, lozenges and gum."
Councilman Ron Pugh said he also was vehemently opposed to the inclusion of the devices in the ordinance until he researched the matter further. He said he learned that there is no proof that the devices do or do not help a smoker to quit. Furthermore, he said the devices emit a vapor that also is an irritant to some people.
"I'm in favor of passing this bill tonight as it is written," Pugh said. "Let it go as it is. If there are issues with it later, then let those come forward in the form of whatever (action) anybody wants to take."
Edwards also expressed concerns with the weight of the penalties outlined in the ordinance. The penalties are increased with each cumulative violation within a 24-month time period. The fine for first-offense violators deemed guilty by the municipal court is $50. The second-offense fine is $100, the third-offense fine is $200 and the fourth-offense fine is $400. The fine caps off at $500 for the fifth and all subsequent offenses.
"Twenty-four months is excessive," Edwards said. "If you continually adjust that up, it really gets to be an expensive ordeal."
Mayor Kenny Davidson also expressed concern stemming from discussions with other smokers who he said just want a designated spot to smoke at each location. He asked the council if it would be willing to consider amending the ordinance in favor of designating a smoking area at the properties where the ban would be effective. Pugh addressed the suggestion.
"I cannot stand to smell cigarette smoke," he said. "It doesn't matter where you're standing outdoors. If somebody is smoking 500 feet away, I can still smell that cigarette smoke, especially when the wind changes. So there really is no true designated area for smokers."
Davidson also questioned if city council would be approving an ordinance too difficult to enforce.
The council approved the ordinance without change.
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