A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Bellevue follows lead of neighboring Dayton, takes first steps toward city-wide indoor smoking ban

By Patricia A. Scheyer
NKyTribune reporter

The City of Bellevue listened to the first reading of an ordinance last month which will ban smoking in most areas of the city. It will be known as the Bellevue Smoke-Free Air Ordinance, and it is on the website.

If the ordinance passes, Bellevue will become the 34th city in Kentucky to institute a smoking ban ordinance.

“Too many people are dying,” said Mayor Charlie Cleves. “Kentucky has always been one of the highest on the list of states that have smoking-related diseases. Our kids are smoking in high school. Ten years ago, I would have said this ordinance might not pass, but I think now is the time. It’s the right thing to do.”

(Graphic from Truth Initiative; click for larger image)

City Administrator Frank Warnock tried to anticipate questions by going door to door to the businesses that would be affected and hand-delivering a copy of the ordinance.

“When I went into the bowling alley, there was a lot of cigarette smoke in the air,” he said. “I looked around, and there were three to four high school team in there, breathing the air.”

Warnock read the specifics of the ordinance aloud at the first reading.

Smoking will be prohibited in the city of Bellevue in all the city’s facilities and properties, at all enclosed public places, at enclosed places of employment, at long-term healthcare facilities, at hotel and motel and short-term rental units, near entranceways in or on a public place in the city, on any outdoor property owned by Bellevue, and at any outdoor seating or serving areas owned by public restaurants.

There are some exceptions.

Smoking will not be prohibited at outdoor stadiums, and playgrounds, parks, bus stops, and a reasonable distance, such as ten feet, away from outdoor places of employment. Exceptions also include private clubs, such as the Eagles, private residences unless they are used as a daycare, outdoor patios, yards, sidewalks adjacent to bars and restaurants, and sidewalks unless they are impeding someone else’s property. Signage is required to remind people smoking is banned. A police officer can issue a citation, and the penalty for the first citation is $50, with amounts rising for subsequent violations. The NKY Health department will take care of the enforcement, and they will also do an education campaign to help people understand why the city is doing this.

(Slide from City of Bellevue Powerpoint presentation; click for larger image)

The ordinance is based on a model provided by Breathe Easy, a coalition made up of St. Elizabeth, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, the Health Department, the NKY Chamber of Commerce, and One NKY Alliance. It also aligns closely with the same ordinance in Dayton.

At the first reading, a PowerPoint presentation was given by Stephanie Vogel, Director of Population Health for the Northern Kentucky Health Department, and Dr. Michael Gieske, a family medicine doctor from St. Elizabeth Hospital. Brent Cooper from the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce also spoke as did Karen Finan from OneNky Alliance.

The numbers paint a convincing picture.

Kentucky has shared the bottom of the list for states that have the most cases of lung cancer in the nation with West Virginia for the last 20-plus years

“We’re at the bottom of the heap, right behind West Virginia,” said Dr. Gieske. “Ohio and Indiana are not much better.”

(Slide from City of Bellevue Powerpoint presentation; click for larger image)

In Campbell County, 26 percent of the high school youth smoke, and that compares to 25 percent of high school youth in Kentucky, and 14 percent of the same age group in the United States.

In 2020, 21.4 percent of adults smoked in Kentucky, while the national rate of adults who smoked was 15.5 percent.

Kentucky is second highest in the nation in the number of adults who smoke, and lowest in the lung cancer survival rates.

Brent Cooper listed several cities in Kentucky that have had similar legislation for years. He said businesses have always had reasonable regulations, and everyone abides by them. He encouraged people to use the word reasonable.

“Is it reasonable to have somebody step outside and smoke knowing it impacts the person next to you?” he queried. “We are seen as the smoking section for Greater Cincinnati. We want to change that.”

Ben Haggerty, the owner of the B-Line pub, stood up to speak.

“I would not want this to be misconstrued as me arriving here in opposition, as a bar owner,” he said. “We actually adopted a hybrid model of non-smoking and smoking by set hours more than five years ago. There are obvious merits to it. I’m truly here because of concerns about unintended consequences.”

(Slide from City of Bellevue Powerpoint presentation; click for larger image)

He explained that he worried about people moving out to the street to smoke and disturbing other people with the noise. He also wanted business owners like himself to have some time to get used to the ordinance and help their customers to adjust also.

He worried that if the ordinance is set into law right away, patrons who smoke will be creating more noise by being out in the street where people can hear them and smell the smoke. If an establishment is connected with these patrons, Hagerty could see that establishment being cited possibly as a nuisance, and even closed down because there hasn’t been time to retrain the patrons, and get used to the new laws.

Two other business owners came to essentially back up the fear of unintended consequences, and ask for more time before the law would be in effect. ‘Chili Rick,’ from the Bellevue Vets, said they are not out to take care of everyone’s health, but people are going to need a place to smoke, and he wanted to make sure businesses had a chance to remodel their building or make other concessions to give patrons what they need but still be in compliance with the law.

About four to five businesses will be affected by this law.

“Obviously the city of Bellevue’s willingness to work with its businesses has been great,” Hagerty stated. “I’m coming up on 20 years here in Bellevue, I wouldn’t be here otherwise. In that respect, I would assume that that will continue.”

Most of the council agreed and changed the ordinance to allow 90 days before they would begin to cite anyone for the new law.

The second reading of the ordinance will be on February 8 at 7 p.m.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment