Future of smoking in downtown Ontario is hazy

Some business leaders in the downtown area have recently complained to Ontario City Manager Adam Brown about relocating rather than dealing with continuous littering of cigarette butts. The City Council instructed Brown to write up an ordinance to deal with the situation.

ONTARIO — The state of Oregon takes secondhand smoke seriously, as evidenced by the Indoor Clean Air Act. This measure prohibits smoking indoors in public areas except in places where it has been designated, and was first enacted in 1981. In 2016, the words “inhalant delivery systems” were added to the act to cover use of e-cigarette and vape pen products.

What are the places that this law applies to? The act states, “All workplaces and enclosed public places must be smoke, vapor and aerosol free.” Businesses are under no obligation to allow smoking of any kind on the premises and can have an entire area declared to be smoke-free at any time.

As it pertains to the act, some Oregon cities and counties have taken extra measures to further restrict smoking in public areas and workplaces, and some of those places are outside.

Downtown Ontario businesses are bringing the smoking issue to city officials to limit the amount of smoking outside of storefronts. City Manager Adam Brown during the City Council’s work session on Aug. 8 indicated to the Ontario City Council that some business owners have told him they are willing to relocate because of the smoking habits of people downtown. Brown also cited the littering of spent cigarette butts as an issue that business-owners are struggling with.

And while littering on a public way (including a sidewalk) is a violation of state law, a police officer would have to see the person do it in order to hand out a ticket for the misdemeanor crime, and it is unknown at this time if the city police force has the manpower to enact such ticketing.

Chayo Machuca, of Graphixwear Screenprinting and Embroidery, a business in the downtown area, said the smoking itself was not so much of an issue, she just doesn’t care for having to clean up the leftover cigarette butts.

David Eldridge, of Eldridge Furniture, remembers a time when smoking was permitted indoors at most all establishments, business or otherwise, and says, “I’d sooner have ’em do it outside.”

Councilman Norm Crume said it would be advantageous if Brown put together an ordinance. Councilman Michael Braden added, “We want to hear back from downtown business owners.”

No decision was made during the meeting. Instead, the council tabled it for a later time, and instructed Brown to go ahead and work on the ordinance.

Griffin Hewitt is a news reporter at The Argus Observer. He can be reached at (541) 823-4814 or by emailing griffinh@argusobserver.com. To comment on this story, go to www.argusobserver.com.

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