Bunkie asked to consider smoking ban ordinance

A group supporting a smoke-free environment has asked Bunkie officials to consider banning smoking in and around most businesses in the municipality.

Mayor Mike Robertson said he has not decided if he will present a no-smoking ordinance to the City Council for consideration. He has discussed it with a few council members and has received a negative response.

“I’m not a supporter of smoking because of health reasons,” Robertson said. “However, this will be a hot topic. With the elections just a few months away, the council may not take any action at this time.”

He said council members may look at the issue and it is possible one of them may put it on the agenda for discussion.

Jennifer W. Gilchrist, regional manager of the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living, gave Robertson a model ordinance that has been approved in Lafayette and other municipalities.

“I know there will be opposition to this ordinance if the council wants to place it on the agenda,” Robertson stated. “We have businesses in Bunkie that are still allowed to have smokers,” such as video poker casinos.

A smoking ban could also affect the Louisiana Corn Festival, an outside event with a crowd that includes many smokers.

Gilchrist said Bunkie could not be considered a “smoke-free community” if it exempted video poker businesses and truck stop casinos from the ordinance.

Robertson said the council would not even consider the ordinance without those exemptions.

MODEL ORDINANCE

The model ordinance states that tobacco use causes death and disease and continues to be an urgent public health challenge.

Because there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) bases its ventilation standards on totally smoke-free environments. ASHRAE has determined that there is currently no air filtration or other ventilation technology that can eliminate all cancer-causing components and other health risks caused by secondhand smoke. The organization recommends all indoor environments be smoke-free.

“Cities with smoke-free laws see an appreciable reduction in hospital admittances for heart attacks in the months and years after such laws are passed,” the ordinance claims. “Even occasional exposure to secondhand smoke is harmful and low levels of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke lead to a rapid and sharp increase in dysfunction and inflammation of the lining of the blood vessels, which are implicated in heart attacks and stroke.”

Tobacco-related illness accounts for about 443,000 deaths a year and is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

The new ordinance would protect public health by also prohibiting tobacco use in outdoor public places where non-smokers are likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke.

Proponents stat the ordinance would guarantee the right of non-smokers to breathe smoke-free air and recognize that the need of a non-smoker’s right to breathe smoke-free air has priority over the smoker’s desire to smoke.

The ordinance would discourage smoking and tobacco use around non-tobacco users, especially children. It would also reduce the potential for children to wrongly associate smoking and tobacco use with a healthy lifestyle and promote a healthy environment in Bunkie.

Prohibiting smoking in public places would include any gaming facilities/property and bingo facilities where gaming operations are conducted; areas available to and customarily used by the public in businesses patronized by the public, including banks, laundromats, professional offices and retail service establishments; bars; child care and adult care facilities and other situations.

The ordinance would prohibit smoking in all enclosed areas in all “places of employment, without exception.”

Employees would not be able to smoke within 15 feet from the entrance.

Smoking would be prohibited within 15 feet of all outdoor playgrounds; bleachers and grandstands at sporting and other public events; any dugout, football, softball, baseball, soccer field or any concession stand of a sporting facility or recreational area/facility.

Areas not subject to the smoking ban would include electronic smoking device businesses, hookah businesses, tobacco businesses, private residences not used as a licensed child care, adult day care, or health care facility; private and semi-private rooms in nursing homes and long-term care facilities that are occupied by one or more persons who are smokers and have requested in writing to be placed in a room where smoking is permitted, and outdoor areas of places of employment, unless there is an exception.

POSTR SIGNS; REMOVE ASHTRAYS

“No Smoking including Electronic Cigarettes” signs would be required to be “clearly and conspicuously posted” in all places where smoking would be prohibited by provisions of the ordinance.

All ashtrays and receptacles provided for disposal of tobacco refuse would have to be removed from those area where smoking would be prohibited.

Bunkie Police Department officers and any other law enforcement officer having jurisdiction within the city limits would have authority to enforce the ordinance. Any citizen would have the right to file a complaint alleging a violation of the ordinance.

The ordinance would also require that any business seeking a license or permit to operate in the city be notified of the provisions of the ordinance.

“In the interest of public safety, the enforcement officer has discretion to take immediate action to enforce this section,” the model ordinance states.

A person who smokes in an area where smoking is prohibited could be fined up to $50.

The owner or manager of a public place who fails to comply with the no-smoking ordinance could be fined $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense within a year and up to $500 per additional occurrence within a year of the first violation.

Each day on which a violation occurs would be considered a separate violation.

In addition to the fines, an owner or manager could have their business license or permit revoked.

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