Where there’s smoke

Ishpeming City Councilman Karl Lehmann, left discusses the smoking ban, while Councilman Mike Tonkin looks on. The council voted to approve an ordinance banning the use of tobacco products in city parks and other outdoor public places at its regular meeting on Wednesday night. (Journal photo by Lisa Bowers)

ISHPEMING — The city of Ishpeming has approved a new smoking ban in outdoor public places, prohibiting the use of any tobacco products including e-cigarettes, pipes and chewing tobacco.

The Ishpeming City Council passed the second reading of the new ordinance regulating tobacco use near city buildings, in public parks, events and public spaces in a 3-to-2 vote at its regular meeting on Wednesday.

The ordinance defines smoke free public places as those located outdoors within 20 feet of entrances, windows and ventilation systems of any city building; outdoors within 10 feet of bus stops; outdoors within 20 feet of any public event; and outdoors within 20 feet of a boat launch.

“Public place means any enclosed area to which the public is invited or in which the public is permitted, including, but not limited to any business, retail store, health facility, manufacturing facility, convention hall, meeting hall, sports arena, theater, gymnasium, health spa, swimming pool, roller rink, ice rink, bowling alley, laundromat, professional office, school or public building,” the ordinance states.

Outdoor public events such as music festivals, concerts, food festivals and sporting events or races are also included in the ban.

Councilman Karl Lehmann, who voted against the ordinance, said the ban was too restrictive.

“I thought it was an air quality issue until I dig a little deeper into it and found you can’t have any tobacco products, so that certainly wasn’t an air quality concern, it was a general tobacco issue,” Lehmann said. “Nobody defends smoking, but there ought to have been ways to compromise. Somebody walking their dog at Al Quaal at 7 o’clock in the evening on an off night — it shouldn’t be an issue. I do wish we had attempted at least some sort of a compromise, we do want people to use our parks, and some of them are smokers or chewers.”

City Attorney Bonnie Hoff said she had been working on the ordinance for over a year, at the request of the city manager, Department of Public Works director and the Parks and Recreation Commission.

The council requested during the first reading of the ordinance in June to add language allowing smoking on private property in proximity to an outdoor public event.

“Smoking is hereby banned in all enclosed public areas and within 20 feet of any outdoor public event with the exception of private property located within 20 feet of an outdoor event, such as a parade,” the amended ordinance language states.

Councilman Justin Koski, who served on the smoking ban subcommittee, said the ban would give the police strong reason to investigate smoking violations and possibly find more serious infractions — especially having to do with youth in the community.

“One of the major points of this whole process getting initiated was giving enforcement an opportunity to address those situations,” Koski said. “They found another way around it, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to go away and stay away. This is a way for if something is going on — if people are smoking anything — that the police have a way to go and investigate.”

Council member Stuart Skauge who held the other dissenting vote, said the city should not try to address other social problems with a blanket smoking ban, citing an enforcement issue.

“I think the problem we’ve got with youth, we shouldn’t just look for the smoking ordinance to address those kinds of problems,” Skauge said. “We should address those situations with the problems they have, whether it’s selling drugs, or putting graffiti on the side of a councilman’s garage, or whatever that may be. People really are looking on this as a silly thing to do when we’ve got a lot of other situations to deal with.”

Councilman Mike Tonkin said the core issue is air quality.

“As an asthma sufferer and somebody that does spend time outdoors — it is a problem,” Tonkin said. “I have seen people in situations at little league and things like this — and I am not a smoker obviously so, bear with me a little bit — I have a very hard time wrapping my brain around why can’t you leave a cigarette alone for a couple of hours while you are out with these kids. It makes things not as fun as they should be. And now we’re looking at allowing people to put events on downtown, right in the middle of town, and are we going to allow smoking outside of those events?”

In accordance with the city charter, the ordinance will take effect 10 days after its adoption, the draft ordinance states.

Violation of the ban constitues a civil infraction punishable by a $50 fine for a first offense and a $100 fine for a second offense.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.