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Smoking on its way out

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By James Roberts

Smoking in Campbellsville restaurants could soon cost $50, and a restaurant that allows it could be fined hundreds of dollars.

First reading of a proposed smoking ban drew several Taylor County residents to speak both for and against the issue at Monday night's Campbellsville City Council meeting.

The ordinance, which bans smoking in all enclosed restaurants within the City Limits and within 15 feet of the entrance, does allow restaurant owners to designate a smoking area in their restaurant as long as it is an enclosed area with its own ventilation system.

According to the ordinance, the City's codes enforcement officer, Campbellsville Police officers, Campbellsville Fire Department personnel and other City officials designated by the mayor or the City Council shall enforce the ordinance.

Those who smoke in a restaurant without a separate, ventilated area face fines up to $50. Restaurant owners or managers who fail to comply could be fined $50 for a first offense, $100 for a second violation within a year and $250 for each additional violation within a year. Each day a violation occurs would be considered a separate violation. In addition to fines, restaurant licenses may be suspended or revoked, essentially forcing them out of business.

"Restaurants must have licenses," said City Attorney John Bertram. "Most are issued by the health department. The City would have the ability to suspend or revoke any licenses, which have been granted within the City to these businesses. Other penalties are likely to be more clearly defined - including financial assessments."

Audience members and Council members weighed in on the issue Monday night.

"The restaurants are not the end," said David Ellis, owner of Commonwealth Building Products.

Ellis believes that if the restaurant smoking ban passes, banning smoking in all public places wouldn't be far behind.

"I don't think it's the City Council's place to come into my business and tell me I can't smoke in there," Ellis said.

Although he is a smoker, Ellis said he is not fighting for smokers. He is fighting for rights.

A better solution, Ellis said, would be for concerned residents to write letters to restaurant owners and ask them to ban smoking in their restaurants.

"Write letters. Talk to the business owners to try to solve these problems rather than going to the government," Ellis said.

Campbellsville Mayor Brenda Allen said she has talked with managers of four restaurants that allow smoking. Three are in favor of a smoking ban, she said, but would not institute a policy on their own. Instead, Allen said, "They want us to be the bad guy."

Councilman Doug Mullins said he wonders why the issue was brought before the City Council and not the Fiscal Court.

"Why do we have to be the bad guy?" Mullins asked.

Campbellsville resident Jamie Browning, who first asked the City to consider the ban in August, said he approached the City because that is where the majority of the restaurants are.

"We really should not be doing this," Mullins said.

Councilman Jimmy Ewing said if the City does ban smoking in restaurants within the City limits, it would only protect half of Taylor County. Ewing urged those who support the ban to bring the matter before Taylor Fiscal Court as well. Browning said he intends to.

During a presentation at Monday night's meeting, Ashley Curry, Lake Cumberland Health Department community health educator, offered statistics on secondhand smoke and smoking bans.

Curry said secondhand smoke is the third leading cause of death nationally and causes about 1,000 deaths in Kentucky each year. Studies have shown that secondhand smoke may cause heart disease, lung cancer, asthma, sinus cancer and could result in numerous effects to fetuses.

Two hours in a non-smoking section of a restaurant is the equivalent of smoking one and a half cigarettes, Curry said.

Studies have also shown that ventilation systems are not effective, Curry said. While those systems may remove smoke from a room, they do not remove the cancer-causing agents from the air.

Across the U.S., no-smoking laws can be found in 27 states, including 15 communities in Kentucky.

Curry cited several studies, including a 2005 University of Kentucky study, which showed no negative economic impact from smoking bans.

Smoking in public places is a major health concern, Curry said, and because of this the Supreme Court of Kentucky has upheld smoking bans.

"You've got to protect the workers that are there, not just the patrons," Curry said.

Councilman Stan McKinney said the Council must address the issue now because of the health risks associated with secondhand smoke. McKinney said his mother, who was not a smoker, died of nasal cancer. He's convinced that secondhand smoke caused her death.

"If we can save one person's life, I think it is worth it," McKinney said.

Mullins repeated that the decision should be in the hands of restaurant owners.

"If you want to be smoke free, you can be smoke free," Mullins said. "There are some decisions we need to make ourselves."

McKinney said if people always did the right thing, there would be no need for police officers or jails.

Resident Steve Phillips said the Council's job is to oversee the community and that includes both economy and health.

"I just want you all to remember why you are here, who put you here and who you are supposed to be looking after."

Councilman Terry Keltner, who served on the committee that studied the ban, said he was in favor of the ban when discussions began. However, after hearing from several residents, he's convinced a smoking ban should be in the hand of the business owners, not the City Council.

Allen Gaddis said it is the Council's job to dictate policy and public smoking is a significant health concern, especially for children.

"If you don't do anything else, at least step up and protect your children," he said.

A final vote on the ordinance is expected at the Council's December meeting. If approved, the ordinance would take effect on Jan. 1, 2008.

Other action on Monday:

- Jeff Davis of the Green County Cattlemen's Association told the Council that the group has bought land near the Taylor/Green county line along U.S. 68 and will allow public use of a planned covered arena. Davis said the association will rent the arena for a small fee for various activities, including concerts, circuses, auctions and agriculture shows. Davis said the group hopes to be able to build the facility with grant money and donations. The Council adopted a resolution in support of the effort.

- Codes Enforcement Officer Kenneth Adams has sent a letter to Fruit of the Loom property owner Dean Ford, requiring that the property be cleaned up. Ford has already sent someone to start cleaning up the site, Allen said, will start a larger cleanup effort soon.

- Team Taylor County Executive Director Ron McMahan said progress is continuing on the Heartland Commerce and Technology Park with utilities now being installed. Also, the County's unemployment rate has dropped from 6.1 percent to 5.7. Amazon.com has hired 255 new employees since August, he said, and expects to hire about 150 more by year's end. Upstream plans to hire about 100 new workers, while Frost-Arnett is also looking for new hires.

- The Council approved the purchase of an asphalt hotbox/reclaimer for $15,938. Campbellsville Water Co. employees will use the hotbox to repair roads during cooler weather. Coal mix does not adhere in cooler weather, Allen said.

- The Council approved a resolution executing a $125,000 state road aid bond fund for the resurfacing of several City streets.

- The Council gave its OK for Allen to apply for a USDA Rural Development grant to help pay for the purchase of police cars.

- Allen announced that Councilman Randy Herron received the Kentucky League of Cities' bronze award recently for having completing 24 hours of training from KLC's Public Officials Essential Skills Institute. Allen herself received the Gold award, which is given to those who have completed a total of 72 hours and have earned both a bronze and silver award.

- Three street department vehicles - a 1992 Ford dump truck, a 1988 Chevrolet Astro van and a 2002 Ford Ranger - were declared surplus and will be advertised for bids.

- Staff Writer James Roberts can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 226 or by e-mail at writer@cknj.com.