Bellvue City Council moving to enact smoke-free ordinance

By: - January 30, 2023 8:54 am

Pictured from left: Bellevue Mayor Charlie Cleves and City Administrator Frank Warnock. (Photo by Nathan Granger | Link nky contributor)

This article is republished from LINK nky. It was written by contributor Nathan Granger.

The Bellevue City Council gave the first reading of a proposed smoke-free ordinance during January’s monthly council meeting.

The council listened to presentations from Breathe Easy NKY, an alliance of local business and healthcare leaders who were in favor of the ban, as well as comments from businesses owners in Bellevue who allow smoking in their establishments. Council members were broadly in favor of the ordinance.

The proposed law is based off a recently passed smoking ban in nearby Dayton and off of a model ordinance submitted by Breathe Easy NKY. The draft of the ordinance states that smoking would be banned on city property, most places of employment and enclosed public spaces. Fraternal organizations and other private clubs not open to the public would be exempt from the ban. People would also be allowed to smoke outside of restaurants and bars on yards and patios as long as smoke doesn’t enter the building.

The Northern Kentucky Health Department would be primarily responsible for the ordinance’s enforcement, and violation of the law would result in a $50 fine for first offenses with fines increasing for subsequent offenses.

“Most of us in the room know that tobacco use has harmful effects,” said Stephanie Vogel, director of Population Health for the Northern Kentucky Health Department and one of the representatives from Breathe Easy NKY.

The coalition was also represented by Dr. Michael Gieske, a doctor of family medicine at St. Elizabeth Physicians. The two of them presented a PowerPoint slide show displaying some of the data related to tobacco use in Campbell County and Kentucky generally. Sources of the data included The American Cancer Society and The American Lung Association among others.

The data painted a grim picture.

“Kentucky has, unfortunately, led the nation in smoking rates—either no. 1 or no. 4—for both adults and for youth” for about 20 years, said Vogel.

In addition, Kentucky leads the nation in lung cancer incidence rates, is the second highest state after West Virginia in the percentage of adults who smoke and has one of the lowest lung cancer survival rates in the nation, according to the presentation. Breathe Easy NKY’s presentation also stated that Campbell County had one of the highest rates of smoking among high schoolers, above both the state average and the national average.

Brent Cooper, president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, and Karen Finan, president and CEO of OneNKY Alliance, also spoke briefly about the economic and communal benefits of smoking bans.

Cooper rattled off a list of other cities in the state that have gone smoke free: Lexington, Louisville, Morehead and London.

“Everywhere they’ve implemented smoke-free [ordinances], health outcomes improve,” Cooper said, “costs go down… and kids smoking and vaping goes down.”

Finan agreed.

“I’ve spent years in economic development,” Finan said, “and the stats that you see and the considerations that are asked by site consultants, by talent that is transferring into this market, businesses who are looking at various sites are very real—they look at health statistics, at education statistics and a myriad of other things, but clearly health is a front-runner.”

Once the representatives from Breathe Easy NKY had concluded their piece, residents were allowed to address the council. The people who spoke were business owners who either allowed or partially allowed patrons at their establishments to smoke. None of them explicitly protested the bill, but they did express worry about the changes it might bring.

Benjamin Hagerty, owner of B-List, which allows smoking only within certain hours, spoke first.

“I’m truly here because of concerns about unintended consequences,” Hagerty said.

Specifically, he was worried about rules related to allowing bar patrons to smoke within certain distances of properties. He feared that the greater number of people smoking outside could lead to increased noise complaints, especially late at night. The potential for increased noise complaints could lead to bars being unfairly cited or shut-down, he reasoned.

He also asked for some time after the ordinance had passed to allow bars to “retrain our patrons” on the new rules. Finally, he asked for a grace period before citations were made to allow businesses to adapt and make necessary changes, including changes to structures and buildings, given that many buildings in the city were not designed with this ordinance in mind.

Terry Hatton and “Chili” Rick (no last name given) from the Bellevue Vets Club spoke after Hagerty. They shared many of the same concerns, particularly as it related to people smoking outside. They asked for some grace in adapting to the law.

“If the city is willing to work with us, we’re willing to work with them,” Rick said.

The only other businesses that would be affected by the ordinance are Loyal Cafe, Superbowl Bellewood and The Fraternal Order of Eagles, none of whom had representatives at the council meeting. The owner of Loyal Café did speak with LINK nky over the phone and said she wasn’t in opposition to the ordinance but wished it would be applied more uniformly to include private clubs and other exempt organizations.

The City Council will read a revised version of the bill and vote on it at the next council meeting on Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. at the Callahan Community Center.

Watch the council meeting, including the presentation from Breathe Easy NKY and the comments from local residents, at Campbell Media’s website.

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