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Mixed smoke signals from smoking shelter laws

Posted: Friday, Mar 29th, 2013

After an indoor smoking ban was passed in late 2010, cities are left to decipher what an outdoor smoking shelter means.

According to state law a smoking shelter is an enclosed area, which is any space between a floor and a ceiling that is enclosed, exclusive of doorways, and has permanent or temporary walls. This vague description has left local governments at a standstill until state’s attorneys can decide what exactly a smoking shelter entails.

Adam Hansen, Redfield’s City Finance Officer, mentions that the law is “not real clear. It leaves each municipality to decipher the definition on their own.” Hansen believes that a clarification of the existing law should be presented.

Spink County Sheriff, Kevin Schurch, believes that the smoking ban has caused “different problems for us. Noise complaints, open containers. It changed the dynamics.” When the ban was enacted, it forced smokers to go outside and smoke, where noise is more prone to be heard. “Business owners can’t police what is going on on their own property,” Schurch noted. If a law, or better defined definition, were to be made, law enforement would be forced to implement and enforce the laws.

Kerrie Terry, of Terry’s Bar and Steakhouse persists that smoking laws “take away rights of the businesses.” She also feels that the smoking ban that took place back in late 2010 has hurt the bar and video lottery business due to the fact that patrons aren’t coming in as much. Terry does not think that her smoking shack is hurting anyone, nor is she taking advantage of the laws, or lack thereof. “We police it, we clean it, and we sweep it,” Terry said of her smoking shelter. Terry does not feel that it is fair for lawmakers to decide what to do with smoking shelters as it is “up to us. It’s our responsibilty because it’s on our property.” She adds that, “of course it should be strucurally safe.”

Numerous people differ on the subject of smoking shelters, but most do agree that something needs to happen with the definition of what a shelter is.

The South Dakota smoking ban states: The bill bans smoking statewide in all enclosed workplaces in South Dakota, including bars and restaurants, exempting only private residences unless used for child daycare, cigar bars, retail tobacco shops, and a percentage of hotel and motel rooms.

Furthermore the law also states that no person may smoke tobacco or carry any lighted tobacco product in any public place or place of employment.

It is of some concern as to what a public place means. Smoking shelters in Redfield are technically considered public places, but with such vague laws and descriptions, it is impossible to properly judge whether or not a business is violating any law.

If a business is caught with patrons smoking they would be charged a petty offense. It is a Class 2 Misdomenor that brings with it a $250 fine and/or 30 days in jail for the owner(s) of the business.

Numerous cities in South Dakota are trying to properly define smoking shelter laws. When someone does, and accurately, other cities will follow suit.

For the complete article see the 03-20-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 03-20-2013 paper.

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