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Stub out those butts at the bus stop


City considers smoking ban at SMART shelters, stops

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - If the Wilsonville City Councill approves a proposed ordinance, smoking would be prohibited within 20 feet of all SMART bus shelters and stops. The places to light up a cigarette in public keep shrinking as part of public health efforts to reduce smoking rates nationwide.

In Wilsonville, that longstanding trend gained new momentum Feb. 20 when the Wilsonville City Council agreed to consider an ordinance that would prohibit all smoking within a 20-foot radius of South Metro Area Transit bus shelters and other facilities. The move comes at the request of SMART staff, bus drivers in particular, who have been concerned over the past several years about individuals who choose to smoke inside the agency’s public bus shelters.

“I see this as a specific ordinance being proposed for a specific activity that has been proven to cause harm to others,” said Councilor Julie Fitzgerald. “If you’re standing in the bus shelter and it’s raining you have to be in the shelter, or you’d like to be. But here’s this cigarette smoke, and you’re forced to breath the smoke, and we’ve all certainly read about secondhand smoke, and in my view it’s not healthy.”

Another negative attached to the status quo, Fitzgerald added, if a person is subjected to secondhand smoke they may just as easily choose to forego public transportation altogether. That, she said, would be an even worse outcome.

Proposed Ordinance 735 easily gained council consensus for further study and will have a first reading at a public hearing at the council’s March 17 regular meeting at 7 p.m. at Wilsonville City Hall.

SMART Director Stephan Lashbrook told the council at a Feb. 20 work session that a number of the agency’s bus drivers have both experienced firsthand and heard from members of the public who have had problems with persons smoking in bus shelters over the past year or so. Unlike city parks, however, which went tobacco-free in 2012, SMART facilities were offered no such legal coverage.

“A couple of our bus drivers actually came to me last year, and they were aware the council had adopted an ordinance prohibiting tobacco in city parks,” Lashbrook said. “And they asked if we could do the same with bus shelters. They had a situation where they asked a smoker to move away and then they refused to do it. And you’re left with, well, the bus driver can’t do anything about it. Something with more teeth would be necessary to get people’s attention.”

Councilor Richard Goddard offered the only defense of public smoking when he asked whether or not the ban might not be extended to all public spaces in time.

“I don’t want to breathe smoke,” Goddard said. “But at the same time I do sort of have this issue that this is a legal activity. Some of the facilities we’re talking about are paid for by the same people who we’re asking to stop this behavior that’s legal, so I do have this tension in my mind. Are we going to say there’s no smoking within city limits?”

If adopted, the ordinance would take effect 30 days after a second reading. Signs would be installed at bus shelters designating those locations smoke-free. The ordinance would be enforced through fines in the same manner as the tobacco ban in Wilsonville parks.

Citing Oregon’s traditionally expansive view of free speech, Mayor Tim Knapp asked if a smoking ban might somehow be challenged on those grounds. City Manager Bryan Cosgrove noted that the state has successfully outlawed smoking in or around its public facilities, including the state capitol building in Salem, creating significant precedent.

“Our intent isn’t to go after people who are on bicycles or walking by city facilities and citing them,” Cosgrove said. “That’s not the intent. I’ve volunteered with some of my public works staff and cleaning up some of these areas where we did allow smoking before, it is a public nuisance because people don’t throw their cigarette butts away, they’re not good citizens in that regard.”