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Murray ‘Smoke Free’ Ordinance Passes First Reading

Matt Markgraf, WKMS

The City of Murray could soon become smoke-free. The city council passed on Thursday the first reading of an ordinance that prohibits smoking in all enclosed public spaces and places of employment within the city.

Smoking would also be prohibited in parking lots and within 15 feet outside of entrances, windows and ventilation systems. In restaurants and bars, there must be a 15-foot buffer between outdoor seating and serving areas. The same distance applies for numerous outdoor areas including playgrounds and public events. It also applies to the outdoor common areas of apartment buildings, retirement facilities, trailer parks and other such residential areas and any designated smoking area in these place must not exceed 25% of the total outdoor common area.

It also applies in outdoor areas where two or more employees are required to be in the course of their employment.

The prohibition does not include private residences unless the space is used as a child care, adult day care or health care facility.

‘Smoking,’ defined in the ordinance, includes cigars, cigarettes and pipes as well as hookahs and marijuana (natural or synthetic). It also includes electronic smoking devices and vaping.

Businesses must post ‘no smoking’ signs and must remove ashtrays where smoking is prohibited. Employers cannot discharge, refuse to hire or retaliate against an employee, applicant, customer or resident of a multiple-unit residential facility for reporting violations (penalty is a misdemeanor charge). The Chief of Police or an authorized designee would enforce the policy.

An individual in violation of the ordinance is subject to a $50 fine for the first offense, $100 for the second and $150 for each additional violation. Fines for businesses are likewise $100, $200 and $500. The increases are within one-year intervals. Each day on which a violation occurred would be considered a separate violation.

Credit Matt Markgraf, WKMS
Mayor Jack Rose (far right) responds to concerns brought up by council member Burton Young (far left)

Taking issue with the ordinance, council member Burton Young said in his four years on the council no none has complained to him about smoking in Murray. He suggested the ordinance was rushed and without input from the public or other communities with similar ordinances. He said most smokers are of lower socioeconomic status and have already been “slapped” with the city payroll tax as well as the 50 cent cigarette tax increase in this year’s legislative session. He called for waiting until after the next city council has been elected in the November midterm election and for candidates to speak with constituents about the issue.

Responding to Young, Mayor Jack Rose said while campaigning for mayor the number one concern expressed by citizens was the property tax and the second was a smoking ban.

The ordinance passed its first reading with all council members voting ‘yes’ with the exception of Young, who voted ‘no.’ Council member Linda Cherry was absent (Cherry is on the committee that supported the ordinance and expressed support in a previous meeting).

According to council minutes from the previous meeting, local restaurant owner Ron Gladden (whose restaurant allows smoking) stated he was neither opposed to, nor in favor of, a smoking ban, but asked the council to consider allowing an outdoor smoking area for bars and taverns. Speaking with WKMS, Gladden has said a ban would hurt his business, but his smoking customers would be content with a separate section.

The ordinance will need to pass a second reading before taking effect. The measure is expected to pass in the June city council meeting, which would give businesses until mid-September to become compliant.

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
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