There seems to be a lot of confusion over what the proposed smoking ban, currently under consideration by the Birmingham City Council’s Public Safety Committee, would accomplish. Below are the ten most important things you should know about the proposed ordinance.
1. The proposed ordinance prohibits smoking in all enclosed spaces in places of employment in Birmingham. This applies to restrooms and stairwells, hallways, and even vehicles.
2. As it is currently written, the proposed ordinance would ban smoking on many patios at Birmingham bars and restaurants. The proposed ordinance would prohibit smoking “within a reasonable distance of 30 feet outside entrances, windows and ventilation systems of enclosed areas where smoking is prohibited,” and within 20 feet of outdoor seating or serving areas. Can you think of a patio in Birmingham that is big enough to make sure that smokers aren’t within 30 feet of any entrance or 20 feet of seating?
However, this provision is likely to change, as Councilor Austin notes in this video.
3. Smoking would be banned in amphitheaters and stadiums. The proposed ordinance bans smoking in “all outdoor arenas, stadiums, and amphitheaters” and within 20 feet of the bleachers. So, there would be no smoking in the new Barons stadium.
4. Private clubs are not excluded from the ban. Well, they are, except for when they are “being used for an event to which the general public is invited.” The ordinance also provides an exemption for retail tobacco stores “provided that the smoke from these places do not infiltrate into an area where smoking is prohibited under this article.”
5. E-cigs, or electronic cigarettes, are prohibited in the proposed ordinance. As it’s currently written, the smoking ban ordinance treats electronic cigarettes the same as actual cigarettes. The definition of “smoking” in the ordinance “also includes the use of an e-cigarette which creates a vapor, in any manner or in any form, or the use of any oral smoking device for the purpose of circumventing the prohibition of smoking in this Section.”
6. The ordinance pledges an effort to compel metro-area municipalities to pass similar laws. The city will work with Jefferson and Shelby county governments with facilities in Birmingham “to establish local operating procedures in cooperation and compliance with this ordiance,” the legislation says. Councilor Johnathan Austin, chair of the public safety committee, has also indicated his intention to lobby other municipalities to pass similar laws.
7. Cops, health officers and citizens can enforce the law. Citizens can register complaints about non-compliant businesses with the Birmingham Police Department or the Jefferson County Department of Health. Police officers and health officials can enforce the law.
8. There are fines for smokers and for businesses that are caught allowing smoking. Anyone “who knowingly or intentionally smokes in an area where smoking is prohibited” can be fined $50. Businesses that fail to enforce the ordinance can be subject to a $100 fine on the first violation in a year, $200 fine on second violation in that year, and $500 for each additional violation that year.
9. The ordinance ensures that businesses will be notified of the new smoking rules in two ways. First, the ordinance requires that applicants for a business license are informed of the enforcement provisions of the ordinance. Second, there’s a public education section. “The City of Birmingham may publish a brochure for affected businesses and individuals explaining the provisions of this Ordinance,” the ordinance states.
10. The ordinance is still in development, and is expected to change. The hearing held yesterday by the Birmingham city council’s public safety committee will inform the next draft of the ordinance, which is expected to appear in another public hearing before the City Council in three weeks. The version of the bill below is likely to see some changes.
Read the ordinance below, and catch me on Birmingham Mountain Radio‘s Oh Brother Radio show tonight at 7 p.m., where I’ll be discussing this ordinance with hosts Reed and Will Lochamy, along with guest Tammy from the Paul Finebaum Show.