Canton passes tobacco policies

By DeeAnna Haney | Aug 20, 2014
Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss gives a presentation on the proposed tobacco policy for the public and town employees at a recent board meeting.

CANTON — A new addition to the Canton ordinances adds further restrictions for public and town employees who use tobacco.

Prior to last week, the town's tobacco ordinance only specifically prohibited smoking inside theaters or any public gatherings held in a covered structure.

The new public tobacco use ordinance, adopted unanimously at last week's regular board meeting, updates the ordinance by prohibiting smoking in town buildings and grounds, in town vehicles, and within 25 feet of any town doorway. It also prohibits the use of smokeless tobacco in public buildings such as town hall, the Colonial Theatre and the Armory.

Electronic smoking devices, known as e-cigarettes, are also included in the ordinance and are prohibited wherever smoking is prohibited.

Smokeless tobacco is allowed in town vehicles and on town grounds and sidewalks, however, spitting on town property is not allowed.

There will be designated smoking areas established using signage at the town manager's discretion. One example Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss suggested is to allow smoking only on the sidewalks and in the parking lot at the recreation park. Smoking would not be allowed inside the park or on the walking trail.

Another example is that smoking would be allowed in a designated area behind the Town Hall parking lot and on the town sidewalk in front of Town Hall. However, per the ordinance, smoking is not permitted within 25 feet of any doorway, even if that rule is in conflict with any public right-of-way.

When it comes to enforcement, Hendler-Voss said it will start out with peers holding one another accountable and helping to educate the public about the new policy. Enforcement will be complaint-driven and there will be a six-month transition period during which time the town will launch an education campaign to inform the public.

If after warnings a person continues to use tobacco in prohibited areas, there will be a $50 civil penalty.

During the public hearing, town resident Roy Taylor asked if the town's insurance rates would be improved if the board decided to not allow tobacco at all.

Gail Mull said it's her understanding is that the only thing that could improve insurance rates is if a current smoker decides to quit while on insurance.

"It's more of a penalty if you do smoke and stays the same if you don't smoke," Hendler-Voss added.

Alderman Ralph Hamlett requested the ordinance go into effect 60 days after its adoption in order to give town staff enough time to order and erect signage for the public's knowledge.

In addition to the public tobacco ordinance, the board approved a resolution to amend the town's personnel policy and add an employee tobacco workplace policy.

Much like the public ordinance, town employees will be allowed to smoke in designated areas, but not in town vehicles. They will be allowed to use smokeless tobacco in town vehicles, but are required to clean any spit cups or other residue from the tobacco.

They are allowed to use smokeless tobacco while working in the public, but are expected to refrain from using tobacco while speaking or interacting with people in the public while at work.

Both drafts of the ordinances were the focus of a second public hearing last week. The first public hearing took place July 24, at which time some sounded off in favor and in opposition of the ordinance. However, no one spoke up for or against it at the second hearing and both ordinances were passed unanimously.