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Commissioners consider designated smoking area

fr tobaccobanHaywood County commissioners aren’t convinced a designated smoking area is needed after receiving little feedback on proposed changes to the county’s tobacco use policy.

The proposed changes include banning the use of all tobacco products on county property and were introduced to solve the problem of litter and cigarette smoke in front of the historic courthouse and justice center in Waynesville. 

Haywood County farmer Don Smart was the only person to speak at the public hearing. He told commissioners that he never thought he might be arrested or fined for using smokeless tobacco while coming to the courthouse to pay his taxes.  

“I can’t believe you’re outlawing smokeless tobacco — there’s no secondhand harm in that,” he said. 

He said not allowing any tobacco products at the fairgrounds would become a problem with the tractor and truck pulls hosted there. He said it also would be difficult to enforce, as the containers used for smokeless tobacco also hold other products. There is also tobacco-free snuff to consider.

“I think people who smoke need a designated spot and I hope smokeless tobacco folks will be left alone,” Smart said. 

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Commissioner Kevin Ensley clarified that the fairgrounds were not included in the proposed ordinance. 

Commission Chairman Mark Swanger asked if commissioners wanted to discuss whether to have a designated smoking area. He said Superior Court Judge Bradley Letts wrote a letter in support of the smoking ban but asked that an area be designated for smokers. 

Ensley said people could still smoke in their car in the parking deck. 

“I’m allergic to smoke … my sinuses become inflamed and I’m asthmatic too so I guess I’m not really sympathetic to smokers,” he said. 

Swanger said he was still concerned having a designated spot could place defendants and plaintiffs in the same area together. 

“That could be volatile. It may not be a wise course of action,” he said. 

Commissioner Bill Upton said he dealt with this issue at Pisgah High School when the campus was declared tobacco-free. He said students would find a place to smoke — including the bathrooms. 

Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick said he has generally been an opponent of establishing a smoking ban, but after walking through clouds of smoke in front of the courthouse, he realizes it’s a problem. 

“But the problem is it’s become an infringement on other people,” he said. “It’s hard not to recognize this is something we need.”

Kirkpatrick said he was afraid smokers would migrate over to the other side of the street and on downtown sidewalks if the county didn’t designate a place for smoking. 

“That’s not something we should do to the town of Waynesville,” he said. 

Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown addressed commissioners to discuss the town’s proposed tobacco use policy, which would ban smoking within a 50-foot radius of any public entrance in commercial districts. The policy mirrors the policy adopted by Canton last year.

“Ours is a little stronger than yours — it outlaws tobacco in commercial areas,” he said.  

He said the town’s proposed ordinance didn’t designate any smoking areas and he didn’t think it would be something the town board would look at doing.

As for enforcement, Brown said he thinks the shop owners would be the main enforcers of the ordinance with assistance of the town’s code enforcement officers. 

“If that doesn’t work, we can step it up,” he said. “The sheriff doesn’t stop everyone from speeding down the highway, but you let them know it’s an offense.”

Swanger asked County Manager Ira Dove to talk to Canton Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss to see if the town has had any unintended consequences from passing the ordinance. 

The commissioners will likely vote on the policy amendment at their next meeting — currently scheduled for 9 a.m. April 6 at the historic courthouse.

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