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Council To Discuss Downtown Smoking Ban

Eugene City Councilor Greg Evans has introduced a downtown smoking ban for the City Council’s discussion. He says the ban is aimed at making downtown more desirable for business and recreation.

 “In downtown areas across the country you have cadres of folks who congregate not necessarily because they’re there to do the right thing, but because they’re there to hang out and do things that are illegal,” Evans says.

A ban on smoking downtown would decrease aggressive behavior and illegal activities such as drug use and dealing, Evans says.

“It may push it to some other areas,” Evans says, “but I think it gives our police department an additional tool to deal with that kind of activity.”

A work session has not yet been scheduled for the City Council to discuss the possible ban. Evans says he expects the council to discuss it after its summer break, which ends Sept. 8. He says he does not know if he would also advocate prohibiting e-cigarettes.

The no-smoking ordinance would be enforced in public areas in the downtown activity zone, the area between 6th and 11th avenues and High and Lincoln streets, Evans says. Smoking would still be permitted at areas designated for smoking by restaurants and bars. Evans says he has heard from some local business owners that they would like tobacco smoke to be banned from downtown. 

“People have a right to smoke,” Evans says, “but I don’t think they have a right to invade and impose on others’ space with that.” The ordinance would also encourage a healthy lifestyle, he says.

Lane County Health and Human Services Public Information Officer Jason Davis says that during a town hall meeting, the county found that most people are in favor of making shared spaces tobacco and smoke free. He says 18.8 percent of Lane County’s adult population smokes and 75 percent of smokers want to quit.

“If you just make a smoking ban but don’t give them the proper materials to quit, it’s kind of putting the carriage before the horse,” Davis says.

Smoking bans are growing in popularity in Oregon and nationally. Some Lane County building properties, including all of the health and human services, county administration and public works, were designated as smoke-free areas one year ago. Oregon State Parks will begin enforcing a smoking ban in January 2015, the Medford City Council unanimously passed a city park smoke ban in March and the cities of Portland and Forest Grove are both eyeing banning smoking in city parks.

Santa Cruz, Calif., began enforcing a downtown smoking ban in 2009. City of Santa Cruz Community Relations Manager Keith Sterling says it was an adjustment at first but residents and visitors have gotten used to it. “The way the public views tobacco has changed over the years and our laws are changing with it,” he says.