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DeKalb City Council bans smoking on patios

DeKALB – Public patios in DeKalb will be smoke free under changes to city law DeKalb aldermen approved Monday, although not all aldermen support the ban.

In a split vote during Monday’s DeKalb City Council meeting, aldermen approved changes prohibiting smoking on outdoor patios at public places like restaurants and bars.

The changes also placed electronic cigarettes under the city’s smoking regulations.

After a lengthy discussion, the measure passed 5-3, with 1st Ward Alderman David Jacobson starting the charge against creating more restrictions on smoking.

He argued it could harm existing businesses by pushing customers who want to smoke on patios to neighboring communities without a similar ban.

“They are going to continue smoking whether you personally feel that you like it or not,” Jacobson said. “They are going to continue to smoke and they are going to go seeking places where they can do that.”

Fourth Ward Alderman Bob Snow also raised some concerns for some bar owners who created outdoor patios after the city passed its ban on smoking indoors in 2006. He argued the city should give smokers an option.

Snow, Jacobson and 7th Ward Alderwoman Monica O’Leary voted against the changes.

DeKalb resident Phillip Peterson asked the council not to pass the changes, echoing Jacobson’s concerns about the negative impacts.

On the prevailing side, Third Ward Alderwoman Kristen Lash argued that the smoking ban on patios could have positive impacts on businesses, explaining she visited more businesses after the indoor smoking ban became law.

“If you’re so addicted to smoking that you can’t go for a 45-minute meal to wait until you’re done eating to light up your cigarette, then there’s bigger problems than not being able to smoke on the patio,” Lash said.

Lash also pointed to the state legislation passed last week that will make smoking on all state-run college and university campuses illegal in 2015.

Second Ward Alderman Bill Finucane, 5th Ward Alderman Ron Naylor, 6th Ward Alderman Dave Baker and Mayor John Rey joined Lash in supporting the restrictions.

Before the motion passed, Baker tried to eliminate the patio smoking ban from the ordinance, which would have left in place the current law prohibiting people from smoking within 15 feet of an entrance, window or ventilation system. His motion failed after Lash, Finucane, Naylor and Rey voted against it.

Cindy Capek, the assistant administrator with the DeKalb County Health Department pointed out the state is currently considering changing state law to ban smoking on patios. She applauded the city for being ahead of the state, as well creating regulations to limit e-cigarette use.

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