By Emily Featherston. Reposted from TheHomewoodStar.com
After a lengthy debate, the public safety committee voted to recommend updates to Homewood’s smoking regulations at their Oct. 5 meeting.
The updates, proposed by the Safe & Healthy Homewood Coalition, include revisions to broaden the existing smoking ordinance, such as increasing the minimum distance a smoker must be from a business’ doorway, adding electronic cigarettes to the existing regulations and regulating the operation of private businesses dedicated to smoking.
The committee’s recommendation came with the proposal to ban smoking within 20 feet of a business’ doorway, which is an increase from the current 10 feet but a reduction from the 30 feet the Coalition proposed. Some stated concerns that a 30-foot distance is impossible in close shopping areas such as 18th Street South.
They decided to allow businesses to permit smoking on-site if they derive 80 percent or more of their revenue from tobacco sales. “Vape” shops are not included in the exempt businesses.
The recommendation passed 3-1, with Ward 1 Representative Britt Thames voting against. The committee also voted to schedule a public hearing on the issue.
Members of the Homewood community were in attendance, and several voiced strong opinions in support of comprehensive smoking regulations for Homewood. Ward 4 Representative Barry Smith also supported the regulations, citing her own childhood in a smoking home and health concerns for a son with asthma.
Homewood resident Nancy Hale said she was interested from a healthcare perspective, and spoke about the dangers of second-hand smoke and how she hopes to see all public spaces smoke-free.
Also a mother of two children who went through the Homewood school system, Hale said that while she thinks Homewood does a good job of educating about the dangers of smoking, the proposed changes would make a difference.
“A comprehensive ordinance would really solidify that message,” she said.
Thames and Ward 3 Representative Walter Jones argued that the updates were too restrictive, and violated the freedoms of private business owners to decide about smoking in their establishments.
“Why should we take that ability away from a private business owner?” Thames asked.
There were three motions offered on the ordinance. The first resembled the final, winning motion, but without a public hearing, and failed 2-2. The second removed the language disallowing smoking in public, outdoor dining areas and left the door-distance requirement at 10 feet, but failed without a second.
The proposed regulations will have a public hearing at a future council meeting. President Bruce Limbaugh said it would likely be the Oct. 26 meeting, but they had not officially decided yet.