UPDATE 7/13/13 @ 7:45 p.m.
PRESTONSBURG, Ky. (WSAZ) – Whether they smoke or not, people in Prestonsburg are talking about a smoking ban that might limit where smokers can light up in the future.
Earlier this week, Prestonsburg City Council members voted to expand the current smoking ban, which makes smoking in public buildings off-limits – to include outdoor city property.
That would mean public parks, sidewalks and streets would be off-limits. However, Mayor Jerry Fannin vetoed the expansion because of reaction from the community and the feeling that this would be difficult to enforce.
Neighbors at Archer Park in Prestonsburg reacted Saturday, saying the ban was too extreme.
“I think if it's outdoors […] they should be able to smoke,” David Slone, who visited the park Saturday, said. “Smoke's really not confined to an area that's bothering everybody else.”
Slone said he doesn’t smoke himself. However, he said he has plenty of family members who do.
“I have kids and I don't like them being around the smoke, personally,” Slone said. “I don’t let [my kids] ride in a closed [space] with them and stuff. I think that people should have the right to smoke, especially outdoors. Indoors is a different story, but I think they should have the right to smoke still.”
Protecting children from secondhand smoke is one of the driving forces behind the move to expand the smoking ban, according to David Gearheart, a city council member.
“The kids don't have a choice whether they're around it or not, especially the younger kids,” Gearheart said.
With that in mind, Gearheart was one of four city council members who voted to expand the ban Monday.
When the mayor vetoed it, though, he said they all reconsidered and decided to take a step back. He said it was in part because of the reaction from community members who questioned why they would be banned from smoking at places like golf courses, where children rarely go.
“I think a lot of us knew that it was going to be hard to enforce in certain areas, and I think we made the best decision,” Gearheart said. “I applaud the mayor for going ahead and doing the veto.”
He added, “That's going to allow us to back up, sit down, pick out all the important parts that really do protect our children further, and kind of take out the parts that people were concerned about.”
Janie Smothers said she used to smoke, but she stopped because of her children.
“There's a lot of children that are medically fragile that are at a park,” Smothers said. “Someone's standing near them and they smoke and they blow that out and the child has an asthma to it or an allergy to it, or just affects their lungs.”
Smothers suggested a designated smoking area in outdoor public spaces “so they don't take everyone's rights away.”
“If you're here all day with your family and you're addicted to nicotine, you need somewhere to go and get that relief from that addiction,” Smothers said.
City council members will meet again near the end of the month to take another look at the ordinance and work out a new version of the ban.
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Smoking has been banned in public buildings in Prestonsburg since 2009. The new amendment, passed by a 4-1 vote at the City Council meeting earlier this week, would have also made smoking off limits on outdoor city property, such as streets, sidewalks and parks.
David Gearheart, who is a city council member, said he and the other council members wanted to pass the amendment to protect kids from secondhand smoke.
"I'm not against people's right to smoke. If you're an adult and it's legal and you want to smoke, that's fine,” Gearheart said. “The kids don't have a choice whether they're around it or not, especially the younger kids."
But, Gearheart said, people in the community questioned how comprehensive the ordinance was.
"People were kind of thinking, ‘Why can't we go outside and smoke if nobody else is around? Why can't we be out on a secluded golf course where there's no kids, way out in the woods? Why can't we smoke out there?’” Gearheart said. “There were things that we just really didn't think about when we first voted on the ordinance."
For now, Gearheart said the city council will take a closer look at the ordinance and decide how it would be enforced and where.
"It included places like the golf course and every sidewalk, and places where it just didn't make a lot of sense to ban smoking everywhere,” Gearheart said.
He said the council will probably still pass an amendment like this one.
The Prestonsburg City Council meets the second and fourth Mondays of each month at 6 p.m.
Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.
City Council members in the Floyd County community recently voted to expand the restrictions on the nearly four-year-old smoking ban.
"We were still having some problems with people smoking in parks and stuff around kids, and we decided to do something a little bit stiffer," said Prestonsburg Mayor Jerry Fannin.
The ban now includes all city, state and federal sidewalks, parks and recreation areas, and government office parking lots.
Also with the change, people can also an no longer step right outside when they want to smoke a cigarette. They'll have to be at least 50 feet away from the entrance.
It also means no one can smoke inside city-owned vehicles.
City officials say the main goal is to protect areas where kids might be and improve the health of the region.
"I know you have your own rights. You can smoke if you want to, but the people who don't smoke shouldn't be forced to breathe the smoke," said Fannin.
Officials say anyone caught smoking in a banned area could be fined.
City Council voted in favor of putting more restrictions on where smokers can light up, in addition to public buildings.
The ban now includes all city, state and federal sidewalks, parks and recreation areas, as well as government office parking lots.
The main goals are to create a healthier environment.
Members of the "Breathe Easy, Floyd County" coalition flooded Monday night's city council meeting to voice their concerns about smoking in public buildings.
They say clean air is all they are hoping to achieve. Jean Rosenberg with "Breathe Easy, Floyd County" says, "This is a public health issue for the work place. We expect clean water, and we expect clean air."
"I think that it's a bad thing for Reno's just because about 70% of our customers smoke, and if we ban smoking then they won't stay as long," says Jenifer Vance, a bartender at Reno's in Prestonsburg.
Other restaurant managers say going smoke free was the best thing they did at their restaurant. "It's really a plus to see a lot more kids coming in, a lot more families coming in because we are smoke free," says manager of the local Dairy Queen, Johnny McKinney.
Prestonsburg's ordinance would follow other smoking bans in Pikeville and Paintsville.
The ordinance will have its first reading at the next city council meeting and it could get final approval by the end of July.