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City Council holds hearing on smoking ban

A public hearing on the business impact statement relating to Boulder City’s Smoke Free Air Ordinance was held at the Aug. 13 City Council meeting.

Brok Armantrout, community development director, said in preparing the statement, notices were sent to the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce and to more than 30 businesses affected by the ordinance.

Armantrout said City Manager David Fraser met with the businesses affected by this ordinance for their input. Only one response was received from these notices and that came from the American Lung Association.

According to information in the council agenda packet, only two bars, one smoke shop and three hotel/motels would be affected by this ordinance.

Businesses in the hotel/motel category allow smoking in more than 20 percent of their rooms. The ordinance would allow smoking in only 20 percent of the rooms. It was modified from an earlier version that would have made all hotel/motel rooms smoke free.

Kurt Erick, owner of the Backstop Sports Pub for 20 years, was the only owner of an affected business to speak during the hearing. He said the bill “would have a big impact” on his business because “80 percent” of his patrons smoke.

Erick added that most of his employees smoke and enjoy smoking at work. If this bill was to be adopted, the council would be “saying no” to them, he said.

The Backstop owner said he is totally in favor of the state ban that prohibits indoor smoking where all ages are allowed “because kids shouldn’t be around smoke,” but his business “is a place of choice of adults.” He said this bill “alienates all the smokers that are out there. They are not criminals. They just want to have a place to go smoke where they can socialize.”

Because the Backstop has been a “good, strong business” for 20 years shows that adults have made a choice regarding where they want to go. “I would hate to see the government change that for them,” Erick said.

Mayor Roger Tobler questioned the enforcement of the ordinance, should it go into effect. If a patron is smoking in a nonsmoking establishment and another patron complains, the owner is mandated to report the infraction to the police.

Tobler said he didn’t want “to enact something that would set businesses up for not following through on some violations.”

City Attorney Dave Olsen said a business owner would be in compliance with the law once they made a phone call to the police and reported a smoking violation even though the owner may not have been successful in getting the customer to stop smoking. These calls would not be considered emergency or priority calls but there would be a record of the call having been made, which fulfills a business owner’s responsibility .

Councilwoman Peggy Leavitt raised the issue of compliance under the current state law, which she directed to Police Chief Bill Conger.

Conger said when he worked for the Metropolitan Police Department, smoking violations were reported to the Southern Nevada Health District , and Metro did not respond to calls for these violations. The only occasion where Metro became involved was when a fight broke out because of the reporting of the infraction.

Nichole Chacon, health educator for the h ealth district , said, “The police enforcement was stripped from the state law by the courts” and enforcement was given to the district.

Councilman Rod Woodbury asked Chacon why the ordinance, which would be enforced by the Boulder City Police and the health district, would not be challenged since police enforcement has been removed from the state law by the courts. Chacon said the ordinance has been examined by the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium working on similar laws nationwide, and are confident Boulder City’s bill has legal standing.

Olsen said both the police and the health district have the authority to issue citations for smoking infractions but it is Judge Victor Miller who has the final authority to order a person to pay a fine.

Residents could send complaints to the health distric t , but, according to Olsen, there would be no “stings” such as underage drinking stings, with the adoption of this ordinance. Conger said if the police are called to issue a citation for smoking, they would do so.

Tobler wanted to send out a communication to business owners explaining “what’s expected of them” should this bill be adopted.

Chacon said the bill is not about “penalizing businesses” but rather about “protecting workers” at these businesses from second-hand smoke. She said the health district is committed to educating the businesses and the public.

Chris Roller of the American Heart Association said throughout the country “typically these laws are self-enforcing” and most patrons comply with the new regulation. Regarding the effect on businesses, “What we see … is that the businesses benefit in the long run,” Roller said, and he would be happy to provide such evidence.

The business impact statement was adopted unanimously, followed by the introduction of the ordinance , which will be considered at the Aug. 27 City Council meeting.

Amy Beaulieu, programs director of the American Lung Association in Nevada, said after the meeting that within the past two weeks, she spoke to both Rotary Clubs to “give an overview of the efforts (in the community) and then also what the new ordinance would mean.”

“What a way to get most of the business owners and have them informed,” Beaulieu said.

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Photos by Ron Eland/Boulder City Review

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