By John L. Ross
Smokers got their warning in January — and now it’s official.
After a second reading of a new city ordinance during the regular meeting of the Williamsburg City Council Monday, council members voted 4-0 to approve the smoking ban.
“I think that it’s uncalled for, really,” said Jamie Cook, of Williamsburg, after hearing of the new ban at a local restaurant Monday night. “There’s designated smoking areas (in restaurants) — I don’t see why it’s necessary.”
Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison confessed during January’s council meeting he is a former smoker.
“I know both sides of the issue,” he said. “But our job is to protect everybody.”
Council member Richard Foley motioned to adopt the new ordinance, with a second from Council member Chet Riley. Present council members were unanimous in the decision. Council members Laurel West and Troy Sharp were unable to attend Monday’s meeting.
A server at a Williamsburg restaurant popular with smokers disagreed with having the ban in place.
“I am a smoker — and I don’t like it,” Jennifer Huddleston said Monday. “It will push some of our people (customers) away. They come in here to drink coffee and have a cigarette.”
Like Harrison, Huddleston said she understands both sides of the issue.
“It kind of makes me mad,” she said. “But I do see their opinion about it.”
The new ordinance states “that smoking shall be prohibited in all enclosed areas within all enclosed buildings open to the public and within places of employment, except as hereinafter provided.”
“Enclosed buildings” refers to several types of areas, including libraries, bars, bingo houses, child and adult care facilities, public and private educational facilities, gaming facilities, restaurants, pool halls, lobby areas and hallways in all multi-residential buildings, such as apartments and condominiums, and hotels and motels.
Smoking is prohibited within 15 feet outside the main entrance, exit or wheelchair ramp; and within a reasonable distance of all other entrances, exits or wheelchair ramps serving entrance or exit, operable windows, and ventilation systems of enclosed areas where smoking is prohibited, so as to ensure that tobacco smoke does not enter those areas.
Smoking remains unregulated in some areas, according to the ordinance. Private residences fall into that category unless used as a child-, adult- or health-care facility.
The second is hotel and motel rooms rented to smoking guests. The stipulations are as follows: Not more than 20 percent of rooms rented to guests may be designated as smoking; All smoking rooms on the same floor must be contiguous; Smoke from these rooms must not infiltrate into areas where smoking is prohibited.
The number of smoking and non-smoking rooms may not be changed except to add more non-smoking rooms.
The third arena not covered under this ordinance is private and semi-private rooms in nursing homes and long-term care facilities occupied by one or more people, all of whom are smokers, and who have requested in writing to be placed in a room where smoking is permitted. Smoke from these areas must not infiltrate into areas where smoking is prohibited by this ordinance.
The last area not covered by the new ordinance is retail tobacco stores, as long as smoke from the establishment does not infiltrate areas where smoking is prohibited by this ordinance.
Some other points to note:
— Employers have 30 days to inform current work staff about the new smoking ban.
— Those persons in control of public places or places of employment (including but not limited to owners, operators and managers) “shall clearly and conspicuously post ‘No Smoking’ signs or the international ‘No Smoking’ symbol…in every public place and place of employment where smoking is prohibited..”
— “No Smoking” signs must also be placed at the entrances to these establishments.
— Ashtrays must also be removed from the premises.
— Fines for violation of this ordinance will not exceed $150 and will be considered a misdemeanor offense.