By Martin Slagter Kokomo Tribune
---- — Kokomo’s Common Council and the Howard County commissioners have taken another step toward a comprehensive county-wide smoking ban.
A committee tasked with examining the city’s current smoking ban, which has been in effect since 2006, is being formed, said Council Vice President Bob Hayes. Council members Janie Young, Mike Wyant, Bob Cameron and Thomas Miklik will join Hayes on the committee, along with Howard County commissioners, to create a comprehensive smoking ordinance for both the city and county.
Hayes said before a proposed ordinance becomes law, it will go through two readings and be voted on in a joint public hearing that includes both the city and county. From there, changes to the current ban, or an outright collective ban for the city and county, will be up for a vote among council members.
“It’s going to take a balancing act,” Hayes said. “I want to work in conjunction with the county commissioners. One of the things we want to start doing is looking over the current ordinance. My goal is to get a comprehensive smoking ban.”
The city’s current ban exempts tobacco outlets, bars and taverns and fraternal organizations. A statewide smoking ban went into effect in July 2012 that prohibited smoking in all public places and 8 feet from an entrance. Exemptions were granted for bars and taverns, horse-racing facilities, off-track betting parlors, casinos and riverboats.
Howard County Commission President Paul Wyman said he has been working with Breathe Easy Howard County to discuss the ordinance and has already met with local tavern owners to get a better idea of how to create a “level playing field” for business owners who will be affected by potential changes to the ordinance.
“If the city and county have the same ordinance in place it’s an even playing field for everyone,” Wyman said. “In order to support the community, the ordinance has to be even. If it’s comprehensive and everyone has to follow the same rules, then it will have an equal chance of being successful.”
Hayes said it will be important for the committee to collect information from those both for and against a county-wide smoking ban to weigh what is best for the citizens of the county as a whole.
He anticipates there will members that both agree and disagree with a county-wide ban.
“A lot of time it’s just getting the door open,” he said. “It took some people to put their own personal wants and needs aside to look at how to move this process forward. That shows the cooperation that we have on this council.”
Breathe Easy Howard County Coalition member Shirley Dubois said the formation of the committee is “great news” and she hopes to work with committee members to supply input in the months ahead.
Martin Slagter can be reached at 765-454-8570, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @slagterm.