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Smoking buffer zones make good sense

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By The Staff

It’s about choice. Each individual chooses whether to use tobacco products or not. Those who choose to do so should not be ostracized.

Those who choose not to use tobacco produces should not be subjected to second-hand smoke and a sidewalk dotted with used tobacco chaws outside county-owned buildings.

That is the reason behind Lancaster County Council’s recent decision to implement smoking buffer zones around county buildings.

That 6-1 decision is an expansion of an ordinance that bans smoking and use of other tobacco products in all county-owned buildings and vehicles that was approved on Feb. 22. That vote in February was also a 6-1 vote.

That original ordinance brought the county’s codes in line with standards set by the Clean Indoor Air Act, which prohibits smoking in all state-owned buildings. Council expanded that ordinance to ban all tobacco products in county-owned buidlings and vehicles. That original ordinance went into effect on July 1.

The recently passed ordinance requires county workers to move ashtrays and cigarette receptacles 20 feet away from the entrance and air conditioning systems of each county building to create those buffer zones.

“This way people won’t have to walk through a cloud of smoke to get into the buildings,” said County Administrator Steve Willis.

We agree. So many of our citizens have to conduct business at county buildings – in person. Because that is where we pay our proprty taxes, get building permits, marriage licenses and conduct business in probate court and at the Veterans Affairs Office and more. Nonsmokers don’t want to walk through a maze of cigarette smoke.

Willis said all county employees will be notified and the appropriate signs will be installed before the county begins enforcing the fines, which are $10 and $20.

Earlier we commended County Council for implementing a tobacco-use ban. We also commend the smoking buffer zones around the buildings. It just makes common sense.

Again, we’re not trying to shun or blackball smokers or those who use tobacco products. That is a choice individuals make and we respect that right. No preaching here on the perils of tobacco use and smoking. There is plenty of statistics that verify the negative impact of smoking and tobacco use – the costs in terms of life, quality of health and dollars.

Tobacco addiction is so powerful. One example is Springs Memorial Hospital. In 2007, the hospital implemented a tobacco ban on the entire property. Yet when you ride by the hospital today you see employees and even patients smoking on the sidewalks or across the street near St. Catherine Church.

Again, we reiterate that we are not singling out smokers and those who use tobacco products. They have a right to their choice and we respect their rights. County property is supported by all taxpayers, including those who wish not to subjected to smoking and other tobacco products.

As with any new ordinance there will be some kinks that will have to be worked out as the county impements its enforcement.

However, we commend Council for its effort to stop the use of tobacco products on county property.