Kennesaw leaders are eyeing a plan that would make the act of lighting up a crime almost everywhere in the city outside of private residences.
If Kennesaw were to move forward and adopt the proposed ordinance, it would become the first city in Cobb County to ban smoking, not only at public parks and city-owned buildings but at all privately owned, indoor work places.
A draft ordinance was introduced to the council Sept. 11 by Councilwoman Cris Welsh, who called the effort “very preliminary.”
Welsh has worked with the Cobb Douglas Public Health and the Cobb Chamber’s Health and Wellness Committee to craft the framework of the potential new law.
The proposal would ban all smoking — cigars, cigarettes and even e-cigarettes — virtually everywhere that people gather, including bars, parks, Laundromats, offices, gaming facilities, within 20 feet of outdoor playgrounds, all sports arenas, stadiums and amphitheaters, bus shelters, restaurants, stores and all educational facilities.
The only place explicitly named in the draft ordinance where smoking would not be regulated is private residences, “unless used as a childcare, adult day care or healthcare facility.”
Smokers caught lighting up would be hit with a fine of up to $50 for each infraction.
Employers who violated the law would be punished with a fine up to $100 on first violation; up to $200 for the second violation within a one-year period and up to $500 for each additional violation within that year.
Months away from making a decision
Welsh said the initial presentation, which occurred at the City Council’s Sept. 11 work session, was “simply the beginning of a discussion about making our community smoke free,” she said, adding that the council was months away from being able to enact any sort of ordinance.
Smoking bans have become popular throughout the region. The city of Norcross most recently banned smoking in public places in May 2012, after similar smoking bans popped up in Clayton County, Alpharetta and Duluth. The city of Savannah banned smoking in all workplaces in 2010.
Cobb County has considered banning smoking in its almost 80 public parks and recreational facilities, but no ban has been imposed so far.
“We are very pleased that Kennesaw is the first to step up and take the lead with this issue,” said Kirk Miller, a grassroots manager for the American Cancer Society. He said he hopes other Cobb County cities will follow Kennesaw’s lead.
24-page document drafted
Georgia law allows smoking in bars and restaurants, as long as there are no persons under the age of 18 present. Welsh thinks people at bars and restaurants would be the most heavily affected by the potential ban.
Councilman Tim Killingsworth said the proposed ban is still in its infancy and, as far as he is concerned, no changes to current smoking laws are on the horizon.
The proposed smoking ban, contained in a 24-page draft document, was distributed to council members at last week’s meeting.
The council’s initial response to the idea of a smoking ban was positive, Welsh said, but the council would look over the actual ordinance in detail at the next city council work session, set for Wednesday, Oct. 2.
Lisa Crossman, at Cobb Douglas Public Health, has worked with Welsh on developing the draft ordinance, and has been invited to the next work session to help the council members go through the ordinance, Welsh said.
Government overreach or sound policy?
Across Cobb County, the idea of a total ban on smoking was perceived as a government overreach by some leaders.
Austell Mayor Joe Jerkins said his city doesn’t allow smoking in government buildings, but that’s as far as the ban goes.
“I think people should smoke in their own house if they want to. I don’t think we need to be like Russia, a communist country or something,” Jerkins said. “In a park, I can’t see it affecting anybody on the outside. I just don’t see it on the outside being a problem.”
Smyrna Mayor Max Bacon said his city has an ordinance banning smoking on city property only.
Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood said his city has no special ordinance banning smoking nor does he have any plans to move forward with one.
Robert Quigley, county spokesman, said unincorporated Cobb County doesn’t have any special ban on smoking other than what state law requires.