published Monday, May 20th, 2013

Riverbend limits smokers to designated areas

People walk around Riverbend in this file photo.
People walk around Riverbend in this file photo.
Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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Are officials going too far to limit smoking at Riverbend?

Folks who want to light up a smoke will have to work a little harder this year at Riverbend.

Friends of the Festival, which runs the event, has created seven areas where smoking will be allowed, according to Executive Director Chip Baker. It's a different approach from last year when, for the first time, organizers banned all smoking in seating areas but not elsewhere on the site.

Baker said Riverbend was "ahead of the curve" last year in banning smoking in the seated areas, and the new setup "expands the process."

Riverbend volunteers will be given anti-smoking informational cards to hand to people who light up in nonsmoking areas and the new policy will be explained to them, he said.

"It will be a process," Baker said. "People have certain habits, and we will be polite and direct them to the smoking areas."

Riverbend is scheduled for June 7-15.

"We think this is a huge step forward," said Kevin Lusk, chairman of Tobacco Free Chattanooga and communications manager for the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society. "If someone wants to smoke, this puts the duty on them instead of the nonsmoker working to find a place to sit. This is great for nonsmokers and families."

Chris Anderson, District 7 councilman and vice chairman of the Regional Health Council, said this is "a move in the right direction."

He said he would like to see smoking banned in all public areas and pointed out that River City Co., which manages Miller Plaza, last year banned smoking at all events at the plaza, including the Friday Nightfall concerts.

"I think this is a sign of things to come, and I think Friends will be pleased with how people react," Anderson said.

River City President and CEO Kim White said she has gotten "overwhelmingly positive response" from the decision to ban smoking at Miller Plaza.

"This is a place for everyone, including families, and they appreciate that there is no smoking," she said.

But Baker said the new smoking zones do not necessarily mean Riverbend eventually will be entirely smoke-free.

"That is what the Health Department would like," he said. "We are way out in front of other events on this around the country. I was at the Masters [golf tournament] a month ago and it was 'smoke 'em if you got 'em.'

"Might we do anything else? I don't know. We are taking it step by step."

Contact staff writer Barry Courter at bcourter@times freepress.com or at 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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