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No-smoking decals are available at the city clerk’s office on the first floor of City Hall.
Daily photo by Brennen Smith
No-smoking decals are available at the city clerk’s office on the first floor of City Hall.

Low turnout for city’s no-smoking decals
Many businesses appear unaware new Decatur ordinance affects them

By Evan Belanger · 340-2442

With less than a week remaining before Decatur’s comprehensive smoking ordinance takes effect, city officials reported turnout is dismal for free no-smoking decals.

The decals are intended to help business owners and others comply with the new law.

Using a grant from the American Cancer Society, the city ordered 10,000 no-smoking decals for local business owners to post on entranceways as the ordinance requires.

But as of Monday afternoon — the first day the decals were available — Chief Financial Officer Gail Busbey reported they had only given away about 30 decals to about five businesses.

“I was scared we were going to be swamped with people wanting to pick up the signs,” she said. “But we’ve only had a few people come by.”

The decals are available at the city clerk’s office on the first floor of City Hall. Officials have posted a copy of the ordinance there, as well.

Takes effect Monday

Set to take effect Monday the ordinance bans smoking in all public places. That includes bars, restaurants, outdoor sporting arenas, all places of employment and all places commonly accessible to the public.

It requires business owners to post no-smoking signs at every entrance and remove all smoking paraphernalia from the premises.

Those who violate the ordinance — either through smoking, allowing smoking, failing to post signage or paraphernalia — could be fined up to $500 per violation.

But with much of the media attention focused on the ordinance’s impact on bars and restaurants, Busbey said she is not sure everyone understands the ordinance means almost everyone.

Despite extensive newspaper coverage on the ordinance, some local business owners still said Monday they were unaware the ordinance affected them.

At OK Tire and Service Store on Sixth Avenue Southeast, spokesman Chris Cooke said Monday he had heard of the ordinance, but did not know he had to do anything to comply with it.

“I didn’t know it affected us at all,” he said.

The story was similar at Bud’s Convenience Store No. 15 on Westmead Street Southwest, where employees said they knew the ordinance affected them, but they had received no formal notification from the city on what they needed to do when it took effect.

At The Brick Deli and Tavern, part owner Tina Hall said Monday she had already picked up free signage from the city, but no one from the city contacted her about the signs or how to comply with the ordinance.

“I guess it’s better getting free signs than having to pay for them, but the whole thing is just so wrong. It’s not even anything I could talk about,” she said.

When questioned about the city’s role in educating the public about the new ordinance, city attorney Herman Marks Jr. said he thought something about the ordinance was posted on the city’s Web site, but he did not know of any other actions taken to educate the public.

The city’s Web site did show a copy of the ordinance in its entirety and was posted Aug. 21.

According to the ordinance, it is the responsibility of “the mayor or his designees ... to explain and clarify the purposes and requirements” of the ordinance.

It went on to state, “The program may include publication of a brochure for affected businesses and individuals explaining the provisions of the ordinance.”

Kyle said Monday he did not know that there was a “formal decision” not to publish a brochure or hold a question-and-answer meeting to educate people about the ordinance.

“I think the publicity through the newspaper and the television media should have been enough to make it pretty clear,” he said.

Kyle also said he thought the light turnout for the free decals was probably a sign that business owners had either elected to purchase their own signs or that most businesses already don’t allow smoking.

“I don’t get a sense that there is any great negative with the fact that few have picked any up because the publicity has been clear enough and the time has been long enough that most people have probably taken care of it themselves,” he said.

The ordinance exempts private residences, hotel and motel rooms designated for smoking, retail tobacco stores, private clubs that have no employees, and private and semi-private rooms at nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

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