North Manchester is poised to adopt a strict smoke-free air ordinance banning tobacco use in private clubs and bars and even restricting outdoor tobacco use within close proximity to public events. But the Wabash City Council is unsure whether a similar ordinance is needed here.
The seven-member council appears split on the idea, which was first proposed by Dan Gray of the Wabash County Tobacco-Free Coalition.
Council members Mitch Figert and Bryan Dillon told the Plain Dealer they could support aspects of a smoking ban in bars for health benefits.
“I’m not a smoker, but when it affects me, it affects others,” Dillon said. “I would hope the City could look at something as far as maybe extending certain restrictions over a blanket city-wide ban.” Dillon said he’s also concerned about the health of employees exposed to secondhand smoke.
Figert said he’d like to look beyond just bars and private clubs, possibly including school bus stops and the entirety of City Park if a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance is brought before the council.
Other council members have reservations about the idea.
Eric Schoening, for example, said that while he has personal reservations against smoking, he wants to limit government intrusiveness into private establishments. Schoening also wonders how the City would go about enforcing an ordinance like the one North Manchester is considering.
Mayor Scott Long shared his own reservations with the city adopting policies that are more strict than state law requires and with dictating where veterans can and cannot smoke at service clubs.
“It’s not like it’s open to the public,” Long said. “I’m concerned about government instrusion and how far does that go in dictating what people do?”
In a similar vein, Council President Doug Adams said it’s up to the residents to choose not to patronize smoking establishments.
Few businesses within city limits still permit smoking indoors. Among those establishments are Dyes Bar & Grill and Scotty’s Bar & Grill.
The owners of both bars say a smoking ban would hurt business. Scott’s owner Phillip Schlemmer even said he doesn’t have space to build an outdoor smoking area, unlike other bar owners in the area who say they’d adapt by asking smokers to go outside.
American Legion Post Commander Steve Conner was equally grim, stating the post would likely shut its doors if the City banned smoking in clubs.
Some area bar owners have already eliminated the smoking section from their establishments. Harry Kilmer, owner of Harry’s Old Kettle Pub & Grill, says business has improved since the pub went smoke-free two years ago. But Kilmer still thinks bar owners should have the right to make that decision on their own.
Council members say they’d like more input from the community before drafting an ordinance on the topic.