Lights out

Oldham County’s smoke-free ordinance
draws praise, fire from community

Newly elected magistrates postpone
original smoking ban until May 1

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(February 2007) – Scott Hack, a co-owner since 2003 of Fast Break Pizza in Crestwood, Ky., says he is proud that he has operated a smoke-free restaurant since the business opened in Oldham County. He is one of a few business owners who is not bothered by the recent debate over a smoke-free ordinance.

Scott Hack

Photo by Don Ward

Fast Break Pizza co-owner Scott Hack
has operated his restaurant smoke
free since it opened in 2003.

“If anything, it is possible that we might see an increase in business since other options where smoking is allowed won’t be available” if the ban is passed, said Hack. Raised in Oldham County, Hack said the timing of the ban is related to other nearby communities that have passed similar regulations restricting smoking.
On Aug. 15, 2006, former Oldham County Judge-Executive Mary Ellen Kinser formed a six-person committee to examine the issue of making Oldham County smoke free. It took 3 1/2 hours of debate several months later when this issue came up for a vote to finally arrive at the decision to pass the ban.
The smoking ban was scheduled to go into effect Feb. 1, 2007. But with a new administration and new people elected to the Fiscal Court, the ban has been postponed until May. Some magistrates believe more time is needed to examine the prior vote, of which they were not a part, especially since they are the ones who must deal with this issue and enforce the ban if it goes into effect.
Just days before the ban was to take effect, magistrates passed an emergency ordinance to push the start date to 12:01 a.m. May 1. The court voted 7-2 to delay the original ordinance to make Oldham County smoke-free.
Oldham County appeared to have jumped on the smoke-free bandwagon, following a national and statewide trend by adopting this ordinance the first go-round. Other communities such as Louisville, Elizabethtown, Lexington, Georgetown, Frankfort and Madison, Ind., have adopted similar ordinances.
For his own business, Hack said the dining room in Fast Break Pizza is open, and the owners didn’t see a feasible way of separating it into smoking and non-smoking sections. “We also set up our dining room with a sports bar feel, but to help keep it more family friendly, we kept it smoke free.”
Foreseeing a future decision on this issue, Oldham County Chamber of Commerce Executive director Deanna Epperly Karem said she was not surprised at Fiscal Court’s passing of the smoke-free ordinance in the beginning.
“We’re seeing more and more communities pass smoking bans for their communities. Oldham County would eventually have to make a decision on this issue,” said Karem. The local government has chosen to “move forward in a responsible way.”
In early November 2006, the chamber surveyed its membership on the issue. The chamber wanted to determine how a ban would affect the business operations of the 400 area companies that are chamber members.
“The smoking ban affects everyone in Oldham County,” said Karem. “It will definitely affect business in general.”
Sixty-one percent of respondents agreed with the idea of a smoking ban, and 26 percent disagreed, with the remainder having no comment. A number of the chamber businesses already have smoking policies in place, said Karem.
The biggest impact would be on restaurants and entertainment venues, she said. The members surveyed were also asked how a smoking ban would affect their business. Twenty-four percent felt it would be in a positive way, 18 percent in a negative way, and more than 40 percent said not at all.
The smoking ordinance would restrict smoking in many public buildings, offering exemptions for private clubs with no paid employees, retail tobacco stores and designated smoking rooms in hotels, hospitals, hospices and nursing homes. Businesses would be required to post a “No Smoking” sign near the entrance, and be fined if caught violating the ordinance. But many feel this is a decision that should be left up to individuals.
Howard Ferriell, owner of H.D. Ferriell Builder, looks at the issue in a different way. Ferriell is adamant in saying, “I’m not a smoker. I think it’s unhealthy.”
While Ferriell is in favor of a ban in all publicly owned government facilities, his concern lies in the method in which this smoking ban will be administered. He feels businesses should have the right to decide what they offer the public.
He is “shocked” that Oldham County officials think its OK “to regulate private business in this way.” Such an ordinance interferes with the business owners’ rights, said Ferriell. He takes a staunch stand against the ordinance, even though it won’t directly affect his business because neither he nor any of his employees smoke.
“The scary part for me is that political leaders let trends dictate how they view and vote on an ordinance they pass,” said Ferriell. He feels this “trend” in smoking bans would probably take care of itself over time. Most of the general public doesn’t want to be around smoke, he said.
Ferriell said county officials need to take “a look at what restaurants want.” He was surprised and disappointed over Fiscal Court’s original decision to pass the ban, feeling business owners’ freedoms have been encroached upon.

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