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Countywide smoking ban OK’d

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Smoking will not be allowed in bars, private clubs or other public places across Johnson County starting Jan. 1.

The Johnson County Commissioners gave final approval to a countywide ban that will prohibit smoking on all county-owned or leased property and in all public places and workplaces, including bars, private clubs and hotels.

The ban applies to both the incorporated and unincorporated areas of the county, meaning Greenwood, Franklin and other local communities will have to follow the county ban when it is more restrictive, county attorney Kathleen Hash said.

All three commissioners approved the ban Monday.


State ban: A state ban that took effect over the summer bans smoking in most buildings that the public can visit, excluding bars and private clubs, and within eight feet of the entrances.

Greenwood ban: Greenwood prohibits smoking within 25 feet of most buildings that are visited by the public, in all public parks and on all city property except streets, sidewalks and trails. The ban does not include bars.

Franklin ban: Franklin prohibits smoking in all public buildings, including bars, private clubs, tobacco retail shops and new hotels.

Current county ban: The county currently follows the state ban.

New county ban: The county commissioners have approved a ban that prohibits smoking on all county-owned or leased property, including public parks, and all public places and places of employment, including bars and private clubs. The ban is countywide, which means it will affect the unincorporated areas of the county and the cities and towns. The ban will go into effect on Jan. 1.

The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office will enforce the ban in the unincorporated areas of the county, and local police departments will enforce the ban in the cities and towns.

Businesses that currently allow smoking have until Jan. 1 to put up signs and make other changes to become nonsmoking buildings, Hash said.

When the ban was presented last month, commissioners Troy DeHart and Tom Kite said they thought the ban would affect only the unincorporated areas of the county, not the cities and towns. After finding out the ban would affect all areas, they said they would reconsider approving it.

However, the commissioners said they received few calls opposing the ban after giving it initial approval, and they wanted their votes to represent what the majority of the residents wanted.

“I got zero phone calls from people saying they wanted to smoke,” DeHart said.

Of the five people who spoke about the ban at the meeting, one resident was against approving the countywide ban.

Tom Bland of the Johnson County Eagles said the Whiteland club already has tried prohibiting smoking and lost 80 percent of its customers when it did.

To bring the customers back, the club limited smoking to the bar area by putting up a wall between the bar and dining areas and installing a new system to filter the air, he said.

People at the club pay a membership fee. With a ban that prohibits smoking in clubs, the county would be limiting what they can do in a private setting, he said.

“Right now people have that choice,” Bland said. “Banning smoking in private clubs would take that choice away.”

Limiting smokers’ choices was one of the reasons Kite said he had reservations about approving the ban.

He said he understands secondhand smoke is a concern, but he didn’t want to overstep his boundaries as a county official and restrict residents’ rights to smoke if they choose to.

DeHart said the countywide ban is not affecting residents’ constitutional rights, which is why he voted to approve it.

Commissioner John Price said he supported the ban because secondhand smoke is a health concern for people working in bars and other places where smoking is allowed.

“We have to look at it as a long-term health issue. The ultimate thing is: It’s someone’s life,” Price said.

By prohibiting smoking in all public places and workplaces, the county’s smoking ban will be more restrictive than state law, which was changed this summer to prohibit smoking in most public places or within eight feet of public entrances.

Franklin and Greenwood already had bans that were stricter than state law, but the new county ban will put restrictions on businesses across the county, including in towns that don’t have their own smoking ban.

Greenwood’s smoking ban is stricter than the county and state bans because it prohibits smoking within 25 feet of public buildings. The city also updated its smoking ban last month to prohibit smoking in all parks and on city-owned property, except for streets, trails and sidewalks.

The city did not include bars in its ban. The Greenwood City Council debated prohibiting smoking in bars this past year but decided not to because the ban would restrict personal liberty and deprive business owners of the choice of whether they want to allow smoking on their property.

Franklin already prohibits smoking in all public places, including bars, and residents there would not see any new changes with the countywide ban, Hash said.

With the new ban, bars in Greenwood and other communities will have to prohibit smoking, Hash said.

President Jane Blessing said the smoking ban is usually self-regulated, and the organization can help provide signs to make residents aware of the new ban.

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