Members of the Murray City Council are considering implementing a smoke-free ordinance. The Public Safety Committee met Thursday afternoon to discuss whether to draft such an ordinance and how strict the ordinance should be.
"I'd like to see the whole city be smoke-free," said Murray Mayor Jack Rose.
Rose listed several entities in Murray that already have smoke-free policies, including Murray State University, the hospital, parks and most restaurants.
"I don't make any apology or excuse for my position on it. I think the research is so clear in terms of health issues that it's something we need to do," he said. He added he wants the policy to be "as strict as we can make it," including e-cigarettes.
"It's our responsibility as folks who've been elected by the public to look at what we can do to keep things as safe and healthy as we can," Rose said.
Rose proposed the committee draft a smoke-free ordinance modeled after other cities, such as Paducah - where the commission recently expanded their smoke-free policy.
Council member Jason Pittman said he's in favor of an ordinance but noted a concern expressed by a local restaurant owner who has a smoking section on their patio. Pittman suggested the ordinance allow for some accommodations for outdoor patios but added: "that's as weak as I'd want to get it." He said he wanted to make sure the committee considers any 'unintended consequences' involving local businesses.
Rose said he wants an ordinance that prohibits smoking in all public spaces, including building entrances, parking lots and sidewalks. He acknowledged that the council might have differences of opinion on how strict the policy should be.
Council member Wesley Bolin said a 'common-sense exception' would include a store that sells tobacco products, but noted that exceptions could diminish potential community health benefits due to secondhand smoke and other factors.
Council member Linda Cherry said she wants to see a comprehensive policy and expressed a concern that cigarette filters on the ground could harm children or pets. She also expressed concern for restaurant workers inhaling secondhand smoke and also thirdhand smoke when they go home to their families.
Local restaurant owner Ron Gladden attended the meeting. He owns the Big Apple Cafe and other businesses and is a city council candidate. The Big Apple has a smoking section.
When asked if a smoking ban would hurt his business, Gladden said, "If I wasn't allowed to put in a smoking section somewhere, yes. If I'm allowed to have a separate smoking section, my smokers will be content. But if it's straight across the board: 'no smoking in public, nothing outside of your home;' oh yes, it's going to affect my business."
Gladden said he has a large deck outside of his restaurant that he can screen-in and regulate the temperature (with warmers and fans). He said he has a number of daily smokers coming to the restaurant and suggested the city accommodate his efforts to create a safe environment for them on the deck.
With regard to workers, Gladden said many restaurant workers either are smokers or are used to working in that environment.
The committee approved a motion to move forward with drafting an ordinance. Rose said the process would involve the city attorney and would take at least two weeks, possibly longer, to get the ordinance right.
The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky said Calloway County's smoking rate is 17% higher than the national average, According to the Foundation, the death rate due to cancer in Calloway is 9% higher than the national average and the death rate due to heart disease is 37% higher. President and CEO Ben Chandler has said the county could reduce cancer mortality and other tobacco-related illnesses by decreasing the smoking rate.