With the indoor smoking ban to go into effect on Saturday, Dec. 4, the City of Fulton is working to notify local business owners about how the new law will impact them and how it will be implemented.
Fulton administrators sent a letter out to business owners within the city limits reminding them of the impending change, as well as a copy of the no-smoking ordinance which was passed by Fulton voters on Nov. 2.
"The no-smoking ban, as approved by the voters, is really pretty simple," the letter reads. "Smoking is prohibited in any enclosed workspace, or within 15 feet of an outside entrance, of all places of employment."
According to Fresh Air Fulton's ordinance, business owners, managers or employees are required to direct a person who is smoking to stop. If the individual does not stop smoking, the business is charged to immediately ask the person to leave the premises. If they refuse, the business then is to contact the Fulton Police Department.
"We think police will have a minimal role in enforcing the ordinance," Director of Administration Bill Johnson said. "I think most of it will be self-enforced by the business and patrons of the establishment.
"We really don't expect the city to receive a lot of calls."
He said the police department will not go out looking for violators of the no-smoking ordinance, but "if a customer continues to smoke after being asked to stop, the police may be called for assistance."
"They'll write a citation. If the business owner was tolerating it, then both (the smoker and the business)
will receive a citation, but if the business owner calls, the business will not be held responsible," Johnson said.
According to the ordinance, anyone who smokes in an area where smoking is prohibited will be guilty of an infraction, punishable by a fine not exceeding $50. Any person who owns, manages, operates or otherwise controls a public place or place of employment and fails to comply with the ordinance will be guilty of an infraction and fined up to $100 for the first violation, up to $200 for the second violation within one year and up to $500 for each additional violation within one year. The ordinance also states that violation of the ordinance by any person who owns, manages or operates a business "may result in the suspension or revocation of any permit or license issued to the person for the premises on which the violation occurred."
Also as part of the ordinance, business owners will be required to post "no-smoking" signs and remove ashtrays from areas where smoking is prohibited. According to the city's letter, Fresh Air Fulton will be making signs available to businesses at city hall, and they also are available at several local retailers.
"We do not have any signs right now, but if they call we can put their name on a list," Johnson said, noting Fresh Air Fulton has ordered 1,000 of the signs.
Asked if any Fulton business owners had contacted the city with concerns regarding the indoor smoking ban, Johnson mentioned one in particular.
"We've heard from one business owner who actually came in and investigated how to get on the ballot to reverse the ordinance," Johnson said. "(The answer is) pretty much the same thing Fresh Air Fulton did: You would have to gather the appropriate number of signatures - between 700 and 800 (from registered voters within Fulton city limits)."