Smoking ban debate reignites in Burlington - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Smoking ban debate reignites in Burlington

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Smoking tobacco may get the boot on Burlington's Church Street Marketplace if some Burlington city councilors get their way. Similar ordinances have been shot down twice in the past. But supporters say it's time for Burlington to walk the talk on being a health conscious city.

"People are not going to stop smoking outside because it's absolutely ridiculous and it's absolutely absurd," said Michael Arena, a smoker.

A proposed ordinance by the Burlington City Council would ban smoking on the four blocks of the marketplace 24 hours a day.

"I would love to try and see them enforce it," said Arena.

And Bob Conlon, who has owned Leunig’s Bistro on the marketplace for 32 years, says this is not welcome news for business.

"Why am I going to tell my customers who smoke not to come downtown?" he said.

Conlon also says marketplace restaurants with outdoor seating already have the right to decide whether to permit smoking on their patios. Leunig’s does not allow it. But he says that shouldn't stop people from being allowed to smoke on a public street.

"I have loads of diners who are eating, and they say to their friends excuse me a minute and they get up and they have a cigarette, they go back to the table," said Conlon.

Halvorson’s at the other end of Church Street also prohibits smoking on its patio. But manager Greg Vredenburgh says the streetwide ban would enhance his customers' dining experience.

"It would be really easy for people if they do actually want to go smoke somewhere there’s a lot of different areas outside of Church Street," he said.

The Burlington City Council introduced the new ordinance Monday night. It includes changes to a previous smoking ban ordinance that was snuffed out by former Mayor Bob Kiss in 2012. He called the ordinance bad public policy and claimed it would be too hard to enforce.

The council says the main change from the 2012 proposal is that this time, restaurants will not be exempt.

Karen Paul, I-Burlington City Council, said, "You can sit at a restaurant on the marketplace and smoke, but if you are an employee of a restaurant and you want to smoke and you want to smoke in the middle of the marketplace, you couldn't do that."

The new ordinance applies to the entire marketplace. And supporting city councilors hope that the third time will be the charm.

Paul said, "The fact that there are mountains of evidence that secondhand smoke in any amount, whether inside or outside, is harmful to your health."

The council also reports that support from businesses on the marketplace has increased over the past couple years. When the 2012 ordinance was shot down, they say 54 percent of the businesses opposed the ban. Now they say 76 percent are in support.

Monday night was the first reading of the ordinance at a Burlington City Council meeting. The council voted 13-1 to pass the ordinance onto committee for review.

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