WarrenOctober 24, 2012
Council takes first step toward smoking ban
By Brian Louwers
C & G Staff Writer
WARREN — The Warren City Council has taken a potentially “historic” first step toward banning smoking on any city property.
The council voted 5-2 earlier this month to approve an amended version of an ordinance proposed by Warren Mayor Jim Fouts in September that would have banned smoking within 100 feet of all city buildings, including City Hall, police headquarters and the 37th District Court.
However, the council went further than that when a majority of its members voted to support District 5 City Council member Robert Boccomino’s amendment that would effectively make any city property a “smoke-free campus.”
“I just want to see our city go in the direction schools and hospitals are going, if we’re going to act on this at all,” Boccomino said. “My feeling is, if we’re going to act, it’s all or nothing. Go big or go home.”
Council members Keith Sadowski and Steven Warner voted against the proposed ordinance.
Sadowski, representing District 2, said he does not smoke and that he’s bothered by it. Still, he said he was opposed to banning smoking outside city buildings because smoking is legal for adults.
“I’ve always said, if you smoke, you should quit. If you have kids and you smoke around them, you should stop,” Sadowski said. “The fact of the matter is we still live in a free country, and smoking is still legal. Individuals still have rights. By standing outside of a building in open air and smoking, I don’t necessarily find that, from my standpoint, as being offensive.”
Warner, who represents District 4, said he does smoke but that he doesn’t do it inside or around his children. He said it’s a matter of “personal responsibility” and asked City Attorney James Biernat what guidelines exist in state law.
Biernat said the law remains silent on the issue of distance as it pertains to smoking outside public buildings, despite a gubernatorial proclamation that called for a 25-foot buffer.
“We are not covered by any law at this time, and we are not preempted, therefore, from imposing our own standards, whatever standards this group deems appropriate, if any,” Biernat said.
Boccomino declined Warner’s request to amend the proposal to include a 35-foot requirement and to exclude city parks and the City Hall parking structure.
Fouts later expressed concern over the expanded ban and questioned its enforceability.
He said signs had already been produced announcing the 100-foot distance requirement for smokers wanting to light up outside city buildings.
A second reading of the proposed ordinance could come as soon as Oct. 23, after the Warren Weekly went to press.
It wasn’t immediately clear if a ban similar in scope exists in any other municipality in Michigan. However, Council member Kelly Colegio said she believed a few cities elsewhere in the United States had enacted similar ordinances.