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Tobacco-free ordinance on hold in Swain

swainSwain County Commissioners postponed a vote on whether to make the county recreation center a tobacco-free area after hearing feedback from a few residents.

Commissioners held a public hearing Feb. 11 regarding a proposed ordinance to make the recreation center a smoke-free zone, but decided to do some more research into the issue before making a final decision. 

In addition to hearing concerns before the meeting from county employees who use tobacco products, several residents questioned the fairness of the ordinance. 

Kenneth Parton asked commissioners to consider how the ordinance would affect county employees who use smokeless tobacco. Would they be issued a citation for dipping while working outside at the rec center?

“I know it’s a good thing to get people off tobacco, but I don’t feel like making the park tobacco-free will change anything — if people want to quit it’s their own business,” he said.  

Parton suggested having a designated smoking area at the rec center if people smoking were creating a real problem, but not punishing people for using tobacco as long as they were being considerate of others. 

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Lance Grant said it was the first he had heard of the proposed ordinance and asked for more details about how it would be enforced. 

“I don’t like people smoking around me, but if I’m outside I don’t see why you shouldn’t have the right do to what you want to do — this is America,” Grant said. 

Commissione Chairman Phil Carson said the ordinance was fairly thorough and prohibited all tobacco products plus the use of e-cigarettes. If passed, the use of tobacco at the rec center could result in a $50 citation. 

“The $50 fine only comes into play if the person refuses to put out the cigarette or tobacco product,” Carson said. “There’s no consequence other than the cost of the penalty — no court cost shall be assessed.”

Grant also wanted to know how the county would use the citation revenue. 

After closing the public hearing for comments, Carson said the board would like to table the vote on the ordinance and consider the pubic comments made. 

“This will allow us time for our attorney to look over the ordinance again and refresh us on designating areas for tobacco use,” he said. “I don’t know when it will be back on the agenda — maybe in March.”

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