The Bethel City Council is considering the first change in its smoking laws in 20 years. At issue is how far a smoker has to be from the entrance to a public building, and exactly what should be considered an entrance.
It all started when several community members approached Vice Mayor Fred Watson with concerns about people smoking at the ends of the ramps public buildings have to provide for access for the disabled. Watson explained to his fellow City Council members what happened when he looked into the situation.
“And I went and talked to a few [smokers] and they said ‘well, we’re 25 feet away from the entrance,’ which you know in several locations they are following the rule of the law,” said Watson.
On Tuesday night, Watson proposed new language to update the law to change the distance from 25 feet to 50 feet from any entryway of a public building.
“Twenty-five feet is not a long distance for somebody who has extreme allergies; you get the right wind, you’re still gonna be inhaling a lot of secondhand smoke,” Watson said.
Additionally, the new language says that the 50 foot distance should be measured from the end of the ramp. Another change to the code is a fine of $75 for violations.
Council accepted the ordinance unanimously for introduction, and the public will have its moment for comment during the next City Council meeting on September 11.