October 12, 2010

City Extends Smoking Ban to Entire Commons Area

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Beginning Nov. 1, smokers who frequent the Ithaca Commons will have to find a new place to light up. Last Wednesday, the Ithaca Common Council voted 8-2 to make the Commons entirely smoke-free. The ban also extends to local parks and other natural areas.

The decision extends the previous smoking ban, in effect since August, which restricted smokers to specific areas of the Commons, including the western and eastern entrances. However, Commons merchants whose stores were located near the designated smoking areas quickly began to complain that the smokers were now clustering in these areas, deterring customers and creating a distasteful atmosphere, according to Alderperson Ellen McCollister ’78 (D-3rd Ward).

“It was creating a very bad impression on the Commons,” McCollister said.

The new ban aims to keep cigarette smoke out of the Commons entirely, a goal which many local politicians describe as important for creating a healthy and pleasant environment there.

“The Commons will now be a more welcoming and inviting space for all people,” Alderperson Svante Myrick ’09 (D-4th Ward) said. “I believe the businesses will benefit from a smoke-free environment.  People will be able to shop, eat, and play on the Commons without being exposed — against their will — to second-hand smoke.”

However, concerns remain that the extension of the ban will simply pass the problem off to other nearby businesses, as smokers migrate from the Commons to areas across the street.

McCollister voiced concern for these businesses and predicted that debate over the legislation would continue, though the effects of the ban might not be fully felt during the winter, when fewer people spend time outdoors.

“We’re not finished with this discussion yet,” she said. “Where do we draw the line? Do we keep saying people can’t smoke and keep pushing them further out? I don’t feel like that’s my job.”

McCollister and Alderperson Joel Zumoff (D-3th Ward) — who cast the two dissenting votes Wednesday night — advocated banning smoking just around playgrounds and dining areas. McCollister also expressed concern about the large amount of Council time being devoted to the smoking issue, and said she hoped they would be able to move on soon.

Original Author: Eliza LaJoie