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Ashland councilors OK work on proposed smoking ban ordinance

Ashland Monday took a step toward banning all types of smoking, including vapor cigarettes, for the entire city.

The City Council, at a nonbinding study session, asked staff to work up an ordinance to prohibit smoking of any kind on public property. Council members said they want input from businesses and restaurants how this would impact them before they vote on anything.

Smoking is already prohibited by state health code within 10 feet of the doors and windows (that can be opened) of businesses, but it’s not an offense unless a city creates an ordinance and enforces it, said city Administrator Dave Kanner.

City staff will shape a proposal, which the council could amend so it applies to a downtown zone or the whole town, Kanner said. Councilor Stefani Seffinger, who proposed the ban, said most cities with bans apply them to the whole town.

Councilor Greg Lemhouse supported the city-wide ban, so it would loop in much-populated areas like Shop'n Kart and A Street.

Seffinger said smoke within 25 feet of a business can be just as harmful as indoor smoke — and that many workers, such as waiters in outdoor settings, get overexposed to sidewalk smoke.

Butts of cigarettes have many carcinogens, she added, and end up in gutters and creeks, compromising water quality. These would be much reduced with a ban, she adds.

Councilor Pam Marsh said legalization of marijuana has made the ban that much more pressing — and Councilor Carol Voisin noted that any ban should include the increasingly popular e-smoking systems for cigarettes and marijuana.

Asked if the proposal takes aim at Ashland’s downtown homeless population, Voisin, in an interview, said, “It absolutely does ... though most of them can’t afford cigarettes. But it’s also aimed at people who throw cigarettes down and even dump car ashtrays at the curb.”

Seffinger, in an interview, said the proposal has nothing to do with the homeless and is only aimed at making Ashland a more healthy place.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.