Northampton bans use of tobacco products

Published 11:04 am Tuesday, November 6, 2012

JACKSON – Northampton County is going tobacco-free.

On Monday, following a public hearing to take comments, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to approve an ordinance that prohibits smoking and the use of other tobacco products in county buildings, vehicles and grounds.

County Manager Wayne Jenkins said in February the Board of Health adopted a resolution recommending the Board of Commissioners adopt an ordinance to prohibit smoking and use of other tobacco products on county properties.

“This is not precedence setting because the Cultural and Wellness Center is tobacco-free,” Jenkins said to the board.

The ordinance states that smoking and the use of tobacco products are prohibited in any building owned, leased or occupied by the county, in any county vehicle owned, leased or controlled by the county and on any grounds that are owned, leased or occupied by the county.

Smoking and the use of tobacco products are also prohibited in county buildings and on county grounds being used for private events.

The county will place signs indicating the tobacco free areas and remove all ashtrays and receptacles.

The ordinance does provide enforcement and penalty in which following an oral or written notice failure to cease smoking or using tobacco products may constitute an infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $50. A citation may be issued by a sworn law enforcement officer.

County employees may be subject to disciplinary action according to county policies.

“If you approve this ordinance today it becomes effective 60 days from the date of approval,” Jenkins said. “The main purpose of this ordinance is for educational purposes and that is to educate our citizens and to remind our citizens about the use of tobacco, and the issues and concerns that come as the result of the use of tobacco. We have in place a policy out at the Cultural and Wellness Center, no one has been arrested, no one has been issued a citation—its merely there for education and our staff reminds our citizens time to time that this is a tobacco-free campus.”

He added the same reason and logic used at the Cultural and Wellness Center will be applied with the county ordinance.

Commissioner Chester Deloatch questioned what would happen to employees that smoke on county property.

Jenkins said the ordinance applies to both the public, county visitors and to county employees, therefore they are subject to the ordinance.

“The intent and purpose here is to educate our citizens and we have an obligation to help them as much as we can through the guidance of our Health Department and Health Director to improve the quality of life and health,” he said.

“I don’t smoke, but I think you’re always have smokers and gamblers,” said Deloatch. “The person who can’t afford to pay the $50 is the first one to get the ticket. …You’re imposing something on the poor folk.”

Commission Chairwoman Virginia Spruill said at the same time those that smoke and use tobacco products are costing money to everyone else.

“They’re doing something to their health, they wind up with emergencies, which are a cost to us,” she said.

Commissioner Fannie Greene asked if a person can smoke in their personal vehicle on county grounds.

Attorney Charles Vaughan said the person could not.

Health Director Sue Gay said the same question was discussed at the Board of Health’s meeting and they determined a person could not.

“The statement was that the prison system has this in place as well and it’s been noted that the people have to leave the prison system in their vehicles and go to the end of the road to smoke  and return back to work on their break and on their lunch,” she said.

No public comments were offered from the audience.

The measure passed without objection.