GARLAND — Just a week after the town of Garland put in place an ordinance banning smoking in all the town’s facilities, vehicles and grounds, as well as other public places throughout the town’s limits, the board repealed the “grounds” portion of that ordinance that governs outside areas.
The modified smoke-free ordinance was introduced at a special meeting earlier this week and approved unanimously by the Garland Board of Commissioners.
“We’ve been getting a lot of calls today, congratulating us for passing this ordinance and asking us please not to amend it,” said Murphy at the meeting. “We got a call from the State Health Department saying that we’re taking leadership in this. I didn’t realize this, but in eastern North Carolina they’ve been trying to get municipalities to pass smoking ordinances and they haven’t been getting very far.”
While the request was made not to amend it, the board unanimously agreed to nix the “grounds” portion of the ordinance, which refers to “an unenclosed area owned, leased or occupied by the town.” In the week between signing off on the amendment and Tuesday’s special meeting, commissioners said they received some complaints. However, there was no opposition during the Sept. 11 meeting at which the town board unanimously approved the ordinance prohibiting smoking in local government buildings, grounds, vehicles and public places.
“The only complaint I got was about (the part) outside,” Commissioner Mike Toler said this week. “(They said) ‘You’re telling me we can’t smoke outside the building?’”
“I can really understand that,” Commissioner Ralph Smith. “I really think it’s just as much their right to smoke as it is mine not to.”
N.C. General Statute 130A-498 authorizes local governments to adopt and enforce ordinances regulating smoking in local governments buildings, local government grounds, local vehicles or in public places. State law does not prohibit smoking in all public places, but towns are given the opportunity to do that. Public places in Garland would still remain smoke-free as part of the amended ordinance, as would town buildings and vehicles.
“We’re amending this to not include the ‘grounds’ portion,” said Murphy. “We just thought we were setting ourselves up for failure.”
At last week’s public hearing, Murphy cited polls conducted by state universities showing that citizens are becoming more worried about the health effects of secondhand smoke, with the majority believing such smoke was a danger to their health and many others favoring a smoking ban. One person at the hearing spoke in favor of the ordinance, with no other comments given.
With Tuesday’s amendment, the town’s Code of Ordinances section 130.06 would still lay out the desire to make Garland smoke-free on the inside.
“Smoking shall not be permitted by any of the following: any building owned or leased by the town; any town vehicle; any public place,” the ordinance reads. “The manager or person in charge of the building, grounds or public place shall conspicuously post signs stating that smoking is not permitted.
“Any person who continues to smoke in any of the locations listed in (the ordinance), in violation of this section, following notice by the person in charge or his or her designee that smoking is not permitted, shall be subject to a civil penalty in the amount of $50,” the ordinance continues. “If the penalty is not paid or appealed within 30 days of its issuance, a delinquency charge of $25 will be added to the penalty.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.