Council OK’s changes to smoking law

Changes to Seymour’s smoking ordinance may not be perfect, but they are “something that everyone can live with,” a member of the grassroots coalition Smoke Free Seymour said.

The new restrictions ban smoking from gatherings of 50 or more people on public property such as streets, parking lots and parks and ban the use of electronic smoking devices, including e-cigarettes and vape pens or machines, everywhere smoking is prohibited.

Smoking is still permitted in bars and private membership clubs as well as tobacco and vape shops, and those choosing to smoke or vape must do so 10 feet away from public entrances.

“We started working on this over a year ago, and I think those people for and those against have made concessions,” said Mike Jordan with Smoke Free Seymour. “I think the final product we have tonight is something that everyone can live with.”

Jordan said he knows the ordinance won’t be easy to enforce.

“But we have to start someplace,” he said. “So let’s take one step forward, put the ordinance on the books and we’ll work from there. It’s not the answer to everything, but it’s a start.”

Seymour City Council gave final approval Monday to the new ordinance. The 4-3 vote was the same as the Dec. 11 vote with councilmen John Reinhart, Brian D’Arco and Dave Earley all voting in opposition.

Dr. Kenneth Bobb, leader of Smoke Free Seymour and retired Jackson County public health officer, thanked council members for considering the ordinance and attending town hall meetings on the topic to prepare for their vote.

During one of the two town hall meetings, Bobb said he asked for a show of hands of those who felt secondhand smoke was not harmful.

“There was not a hand raised,” he said. “I’d also like to point out that there were no facts or numbers that confirm the safety of secondhand smoke.”

He thanked all of those who have supported the cause and who helped to bring the ordinance to fruition.

Bobb brought attention to one group in particular — Seymour High School’s chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions. That group provided input and also attended the town hall meetings to help educate the public about the ordinance and the dangers of secondhand smoke, Bobb said.

“It’s been truly uplifting to see their enthusiasm,” Bobb said.

Madison Brackemyre, president of Seymour SADD, spoke on behalf of the organization and the youth in the community.

She said it was important for the council to pass the ordinance for a healthier Seymour now and in the future.

“I’d like to thank you for listening and putting our opinions and the facts into your brains,” she said. “Coming together and being able to speak just gives the youth hope that we do have a voice in the next generations, and it’s just awesome that you are giving us this opportunity.

“It’s a small step in our community, but it’s a big step for us as teenagers and children to make a difference, not only in the community, but maybe one day in the country or the world,” she added.

Earley said he was impressed by Brackemyre and told her and other SADD students in attendance not to be intimidated by issues or speaking to the council.

“Don’t ever let that intimidate you,” he said. “We’re always open to suggestions and ideas.”

By passing the ordinance, Bobb said the council is making a statement to the community that it wants to see the city continue on a “positive course with the health of its citizens, individually and collectively.”

Seymour resident Steven Buffington said he was not in favor of or against the ordinance but said there were parts that made sense, especially treating e-cigarettes the same as cigarettes.

“I don’t feel like this is the worst ordinance to pass,” he said. “That being said, I don’t like anything that intrudes on personal space on people’s private property. You guys doing this for public events on public property, I’m completely OK with that.”

Buffington said the new ordinance doesn’t have a lot of “bite” to it but clearly defines public and private events.

“It’s not bad,” he said.