East Ridge city council ready to snuff out tobacco

East Ridge city council ready to snuff out tobacco

June 28th, 2012 by Kate Belz in News

Tim Gobble


• No tobacco products may be consumed on city property, including cigarettes, cigars, chew and dip.

• Affected areas: Camp Jordan, City Hall complex, all fire and police facilities.

If you smoke, dip or chew tobacco on East Ridge city property, the next three months may be your last chance to do so before a city law stamps out the practice.

East Ridge council members is expected to vote tonight on a total tobacco ban on its property, including Camp Jordan and other parks, City Hall and fire and police facilities.

If passed, the ordinance will not go into effect until Oct. 1 of this year. The city will post signs around its property and mainly rely on a warning system for enforcement, said City Manager Tim Gobble.

"If someone's smoking on city property, we'll politely let them know this is a non-smoking zone," he said. "I highly doubt we will need to have the police get involved. That would be a last resort."

Gobble said he's heard plenty of positive feedback about the ban and its projected health benefits, but other residents say the ban is too intrusive.

Ken Meyer, an East Ridge resident and former Republican state representative, said the ordinance is a sign of government overstepping its boundaries and lacked "common sense."

"I understand the concern about secondhand smoke, but it's absurd that if I wanted to sit by the creek in Camp Jordan and have a cigar 200 yards away from a soul in sight I couldn't," said Meyer. "That park is funded by my tax dollars."

The only council member who has opposed the ban is Denny Manning, who said he believes the ordinance should be a matter for public vote and not something the council -- all of whom vehemently claim to be non-smokers -- should decide.

"I never smoked or chewed in my life, but I shouldn't be the one to decide whether or not people have the right to do that in the city," Manning said. "Let the citizens vote for it."

The council previously threw out a version of the ordinance that included providing designated areas for tobacco usage.

City employees are already banned from smoking inside city buildings or in city vehicles. But many firefighters and police officers chew and smoke, Public Safety Director Eddie Phillips has said.

Gobble said the city plans to provide resources to help employees quit their tobacco habits.

More than 600 U.S. cities have banned smoking in public parks, according to an April list from Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, a California-based nonprofit. The only Tennessee town on the list is Johnson City.

The Tennessee Non-Smoker Protection Act of 2007 also banned smoking in most enclosed public places.

State law doesn't allow cities to enact tobacco regulations, but a city does have the right to regulate use of its property, City Attorney John Anderson has maintained.