Archived News

Waynesville to drop back and punt on no-smoking zones

A public hearing on whether to ban smoking in public spaces in Waynesville — including outdoors — was held Tuesday night (March 24), after the newspaper’s press deadline.

A turnout on both sides of the issue was expected.

The town floated the idea of a smoking ban a couple of months ago, but the initial language was only a trial run. A new public hearing on a new version of the ban is already in the works for April.

“We never anticipated adopting the first draft of the ordinance,” Waynesville Town Manager Marcy Onieal said. “We expected this ordinance would be tweaked before a final version is adopted.”

But it’s been tough to come up with wording that bans smoking in public spheres without over reaching into the realm of private property.

“It has not been our attempt to regulate smoking on private property, except where there is an overwhelming public health concern,” Onieal said.

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In the close quarters of downtown, for example, smoking outside, even on private property, spills over onto public sidewalks. And it’s particularly problematic during parades and festivals, where people are captive to the smoke around them, Onieal said.

The first version — and the one technically on the table at Tuesday’s public hearing — banned smoking in commercial districts within 50 feet of any main entrance to a business.

While that might make sense in the downtown district, it made less sense when thinking about the gas stations, fast-food joints and laundromats on the outskirts of town, where a 50-foot no-smoking buffer zone around entryways would make it nearly impossible to smoke anywhere on the property.

Likewise, completely exempting private property would thwart the whole purpose of the ban in places like downtown, where the high volume of foot traffic would still be exposed to unwanted smoke.

“There are many different types of tobacco ordinances across the state that restrict tobacco use in public places. We need to take the time to review those different models and hear from the public,” Onieal said.

The ban would apply to other forms of tobacco and tobacco substitutes.

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