Police: Public mostly heeding smoking rules

During the past seven years, the chances of finding someone smoking in a local restaurant have been slim.

Greenwood and Franklin have approved their own smoking bans, and in 2012 the state also approved a ban. All three prohibit people from smoking in public places, such as family restaurants, theaters and bowling alleys. In Franklin, bars also cannot allow smoking inside.

Since then, police across the county have had to write fewer than 10 tickets when someone was violating the ban — most often to business owners.

The low number of citations written are due to two main reasons: People are used to the ban and rarely violate it, and when it is violated, police can’t always be there to see the person breaking the rules.

Greenwood police officers don’t have time to police smoking, the city’s police chief said.

The city hasn’t had many issues with people violating the ban, but officials have received complaints about smoking at outdoor public places, such as Freedom Springs and other parks, where smoking is banned.

And even when an officer is called out, they can’t do anything if they don’t see the person smoking where they shouldn’t be, Greenwood Police Chief John Laut said.

Greenwood now allows full-time parks department employees to write citations, though none have been written yet. Giving parks employees that authority relieves police officers from coming out to every call.

The parks employee can write the ticket on the spot when they catch a person smoking, and it eliminates a wasted trip for officers, officials said.

In Franklin, city officials have found that people are following the ban, which prohibits smoking inside. The city isn’t receiving complaints because most businesses have designated smoking areas outside and away from the entrance or out back, officials said.

Businesses are doing a good job policing the ban because they know they’ll be cited if police get a call, Franklin Police Lt. Kerry Atwood said.

Since 2009, the city of Franklin has handed out two citations for violations of its smoking ordinance.

Maybe once a year — and most of the time anonymously — the mayor’s office or the city planning department will receive a smoking complaint, Franklin senior planner Joanna Myers said.

“I don’t remember the last time we got a smoking complaint,” Atwood said.

“I can’t say we really see it going on. It’s policing itself because it’s not something we’ve really had to deal with.”

Since Greenwood’s ordinance went into effect in 2006, the only time police have a record of someone being cited for a violation was in 2014, Laut said.

Recently, the city added vaping and e-cigarettes to its no-smoking ordinance, prohibiting the use of both in the same public areas and businesses where smoking is prohibited.

Police are more often on the lookout for smokers at events such as Greenwood’s Freedom Festival, when thousands of people flock to Craig Park, Laut said. In those instances, the person smoking often doesn’t know about the ban.

When told to put the cigarette out, they comply without any issues, he said.

“We don’t delegate a smoking patrol. We’ve just said, if you see someone smoking in the park, or where it’s prohibited, tell them to put it out,” Laut said.

“Citations are at the officer’s discretion, and I’m not walking around with a ticket book.”

Other towns in Johnson County, such as Whiteland and Trafalgar, don’t have their own smoking ban due to the lack of complaints, so both follow the state ban, officials said.

State law requires smokers to be at least 8 feet away from government buildings, Whiteland Town Manager Norm Gabehart said.

Businesses also have signs in areas where smoking is prohibited, so residents know where they can and can’t smoke.

Most residents follow those signs, so there aren’t many complaints, Gabehart said.

Town officials had conversations about implementing their own smoking restrictions but decided against it because there wasn’t enough concern or complaints from residents to show that smoking was a problem, he said.

“Smoking isn’t an issue. I haven’t seen or heard an issue regarding smoking in the town of Whiteland,” Gabehart said. “No complaints, no phone calls.”

Trafalgar officials also have received few complaints or concerns from residents, Clerk-Treasurer Debbie Scott said. Town officials have not had a discussion regarding a ban such as what Greenwood and Franklin have in place, she said.

“It hasn’t been addressed in a meeting,” she said. “We haven’t had complaints. It’s probably not going to be an issue until something comes up.”

By the numbers

State smoking ban: Smoking is banned in restaurants, public places and other places of employment. Must be eight feet from entrance of public places.

Fine for business owners: First offense, up to $1,000. After third offense, up to $10,000.

Greenwood ban: Smoking is banned in restaurants, public places and other places of employment. Must be 25 feet from entrance of public places that prohibit smoking. Bars and hotel rooms designated for smoking.

Individual fine: $50

Fine for business owners: $50 first offense, $100 second offense, $250 third offense.

Franklin ban: Smoking is banned in bars, hotels, restaurants, public places and other places of employment.

Individual fine: $50

Fine for business owners: $100 first offense, $200 second offense, $500 third offense.

Author photo
Corey Elliot is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at celliot@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2719.