August 4, 2009 in Idaho

Moscow smoking ban goes into effect

City is first in Idaho to prohibit lighting up in bars, private clubs
David Johnson Lewiston Morning Tribune
 
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MOSCOW – Amid smoldering contention over Moscow’s new smoking ban that goes into effect today, a few wisps of humor lingered Monday.

“Never smoked a day in my life,” declared 50-year-old Corner Club patron Ted English as he nursed a can of Rainier Beer in Moscow’s oldest watering hole. “Now I’m going to have to go elsewhere to get my secondhand smoke.”

Nearby, 22-year-old University of Idaho student Sam Larrondo sipped on a 32-ounce “Tub” and said he hoped to use the citywide ban as a personal catalyst. “I ran out of cigs last night,” Larrondo said, explaining he’d quit cold turkey for about 12 hours and planned to stay that way.

“It will be nice not having my clothes smell like smoke anymore,” said 21-year-old Ryan Sundberg, Larrondo’s non-smoking drinking buddy.

But down the street at Mingles Bar and Grill, 53-year-old Sharon Shafor took a drag on her cigarette, exhaled and said she didn’t see anything humorous about the town’s new smoking ban. “Big Brother, or the city council, wants to pass laws to watch over you,” Shafor said. “I don’t feel like I’m in Idaho anymore.”

Moscow is the first city in Idaho, officials here said, to pass a smoking ban for all bars, private clubs and within 20 feet of public places. City Attorney Randy Fife said the ordinance ignited enough debate he drafted a news release last week addressing 12 frequently asked questions.

City councilors Monday night put final touches on the ordinance by adopting a range of fines for violations.

Enforcement falls not only to the police, according to the ordinance, but to owners and employees of bars and private clubs.

“The fine can go on both people,” said 34-year-old Jared Ham, a bartender at the Corner Club. “I don’t really feel like I want to pay fines because of other people.”

According to the ordinance, the first ticket for smoking will cost $10. If it isn’t paid in 14 days, the fine will increase to $50. A second ticket will cost $25, increasing to $50 if not paid in 14 days. A third ticket will cost $50 regardless of when it’s paid. A fourth ticket will be charged as a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of a potential $1,000 fine and six months in jail. Typical misdemeanor fines, however, are around $188, Fife said.

“This was my place for freedom, or at least I thought it was,” Shafor said of her coming to Mingles to both smoke and drink. “It’s been since the 1800s that you could go into a bar and smoke. It took us women how long to get into a bar?”

English, who serves as governor of Moose Lodge 871 in Moscow, predicted dire business consequences, especially for private clubs. “As a Moose member, I know it’s going to hurt our business.” He said more than half of the approximately 400 Moose members smoke. And going outside to light up, English said, will force people (including elderly members) to negotiate stairs and leave the building.

“We could probably see a 25-percent decrease in business,” English said.

Pat Greenfield, owner of Bucer’s coffee house, said the new ordinance has resulted in some confusion about a cigar and pipe smoking room she’s had in her business for several years. Some people, like Fife, have said Bucer’s has been in violation of the Idaho Clean Air Act.

But Greenfield said Bucer’s smoking room was built under city guidelines (with proper ventilation), received city approval, was subject to state inspection and operated with no problems. Under the new ordinance, she said, the room will be closed.

The new ordinance, coupled with state code, has specific definitions for bars, private clubs and public places. The definitions boil down to smoking bans in virtually every indoor place where the public has access. The city ordinance also bans smoking within 20 feet of a bar, private club or public place.

The ordinance allows for smoking on adjacent decks and patios as long as the smoke can not get into a bar or private club. Smoking on the sidewalk is allowed as long as it is 20 feet or more away from public place entrances and exits.

Smokers, according to Fife, will also be allowed to smoke while walking down a street as long as they keep moving past entrances and exits to bars, private clubs and public places.


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