After months of discussion and debate, city officials have passed new restrictions to Seymour’s existing smoking ordinance.
City council voted 4-3 on first read Monday night to ban smoking from gatherings of 50 or more people on public property such as streets, parking lots and parks. Another amendment bans the use of electronic smoking devices such as e-cigarettes and vape pens or machines everywhere smoking is prohibited.
Smoking and vaping remain legal in tobacco and vape shops, private clubs and bars.
Council President Jim Rebber said the amendments are the right step in protecting people, especially children, from exposure to secondhand smoke during public events in the city such as Oktoberfest, CityJam concerts, car shows, Scoop the Loop and sports tournaments.
The changes will not impact the Oktoberfest beer garden, run by the Seymour Knights of Columbus, because it is in a privately owned parking lot.
Councilmen John Reinhart, Brian D’Arco and Dave Earley voted against the changes, saying they will require too much time from city police officers and taxpayers’ money to enforce the law.
The new regulations transfer the job of enforcement from city ordinance administrator Brent Goben to the Seymour Police Department.
“There’s still quite a few holes in this right now as written,” D’Arco said. “It’s essentially doing something that can’t be enforced.”
Police Chief Bill Abbott said there are not enough officers available to enforce the law.
“It’s one of those laws you’re going to rely on common sense to enforce, and you’re not going to get a lot of cooperation,” Abbott said. “Our first avenue is going to be trying to gain voluntary compliance and ask them to stop. When it comes down to it, we can write them a ticket, but I don’t think that’s going to be the be all end all to it.”
Abbott compared the issue to ongoing problems with people violating the two-hour parking downtown.
“We write tickets. That doesn’t stop that,” he said. “So we’re going to write 1,000 tickets for the smoking ordinance, and it’s not going to stop it.”
The original request for changes came from the Smoke Free Seymour coalition. That group, led by retired county health officer Dr. Kenneth Bobb and retired city councilman Mike Jordan, also requested that smoking be banned in private membership clubs and bars and that the distance where smoking is permitted near a public entrance to a building be extended from 10 feet to 20 feet.
D’Arco requested gaming facilities be removed from the ordinance due to possible state legislation coming in the next couple of years on the issue. There are currently no gaming facilities or casinos in Seymour, but the amendment passed anyway.
The ordinance will be up for a second and final vote at the Jan. 8 council meeting. Since the next regular council meeting falls on Christmas Day, council members voted not to meet again in December.
Bobb said by passing the ordinance, the city will be making a statement to the community that it cares about public health.
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Changes to Seymour’s smoking ordinance approved on first read by the city council Monday:
Smoking is prohibited at public gatherings of 50 or more people on public property such as city streets, parking lots and parks.
Use of electronic cigarettes or vape pens and machines is prohibited wherever smoking is prohibited.
Smoking and vaping are permitted in tobacco and vape stores, private clubs, bars and gaming facilities (casinos).