Manhattan’s newly combined smoking and vaping ordinance will not completely ban nicotine consumption on bar and restaurant outdoor patios. It passed by 3 to 2 vote.
The City Commission Tuesday changed course on the regulations following outreach from multiple area business owners after having previously passed a first reading of an ordinance that extended the ban to patios and would have applied on golf courses as well. The amended version of the law still prohibits smoking and vaping within 20 feet of access points such as doors and open windows — even on patios — in all Parks and Recreation facilities and outdoor areas, in taxis and ride-share services as well as in tobacco and vape stores.
The ordinance was requested for consideration by the Flint Hills Wellness Coalition and Chair Debbie Nuss says the voter-approved 2009 ordinance had always intended patios would included under the ban. Stan Watt, chairperson for Clean Air Manhattan which created the original smoking ordinance, questioned the negative impact business owners believe would have come of the proposed ban.
“It has not had an adverse economic effect,” says Watt. “In fact, it’s had a positive economic impact because people go out and are not burdened by the fear or discomfort or health issues of breathing second hand smoke.”
Aggieville Business Association Executive Director Dennis Cook and Downtown Manhattan, Inc. Executive Director Gina Scroggs spoke during public comment, saying their membership found the plan “heavy-handed.” Bill Porter of Porter’s and O’Malley’s also disagreed about the economic impact of the law, saying he’s invested thousands in his patio space to accommodate the smoking market and that the provisions under first reading would have pushed his smoking patrons into the street.
“We all know it’s bad for you, yes, but it’s still a choice,” says Porter. “People vote with their feet — if you do not like my establishment, you do not come in.”
Commissioner Wynn Butler initially opposed the ordinance, but changed his vote to pass the regulation once the outright ban of smoking and vaping on patios was removed. He said the regulations would have pushed smokers and vape users to the sidewalk where he wouldn’t be able to avoid them.
“It’s just a huge overreach and it gets into the personal liberties of people,” says Butler.
Mayor Pro Tempore Usha Reddi joined Butler in his vote, noting that smoking was already prohibited within 20 feet of establishment entryways on patios with little issue in the past 10 years.
“I don’t feel [the need]to do something that in this sense doesn’t seem to be a major issue,” says Reddi.
Mayor Mike Dodson rounded out the vote, adding that he’d be favorable of only requiring nicotine use be 10 feet from an access point, but “this is kind of an incremental change that we can apply and we’ll come out on the other side an even better community.”
Commissioners Jerred McKee and Linda Morse opposed amending the law to not completely ban nicotine use on patios. McKee says that unlike drugs like cocaine, society has normalized nicotine use despite its health impact on those around the user.
“Our foundational mission is to protect public health and keep our citizens safe,” says McKee. “I feel like if we don’t act on something like this then we’re neglecting our duty.”
Morse says she was caregiver for her husband for 16 years while he had emphysema and reiterated her support for prohibiting nicotine use on patios.
“I need to support the healthier choice and the healthier route by limiting smoking given my history and given the history of the people I have associated with in the community who have suffered because of smoking,” says Morse.
Fines for violations of the ordinance are consistent with Kansas law. First time violators receive fines not to exceed $100, fines up to $200 for the second violations and $500 each additional time within a one-year period. Under the ordinance, owners and managers can also be cited for the violation as well.