City may expand smoking ban to bus shelters


Published: Sunday, January 3, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 2, 2010 at 10:52 p.m.

Gainesville city commissioners might expand the smoking ban recently put in place at the Rosa Parks Regional Transit System Downtown Station to cover all bus shelters in the city.

Commissioner Jack Donovan pushed for the broader ban after a city resident who works at Shands at the University of Florida contacted him and said the ban on smoking on Shands' property has driven hospital workers who smoke to RTS bus shelters and bus stops to light up.

"All of the smokers from the hospital are now out at the bus stop, and she's dying there," Donovan told commissioners during that Dec. 17 meeting.

City Commissioner Jeanna Mastrodicasa, who is the assistant vice president for Student Affairs at the University of Florida, said she also had heard from a UF official that the smokers' migration to bus shelters and bus stops was an "unintended consequence" of the smoking ban at Shands.

Early Wednesday afternoon, a few Shands employees sat smoking at the benches at bus stops, but none were at a bus shelter along Archer Road. The proposed ban would affect only the shelters, not open-air bus stops that do not have a roof or structure.

"If we have the legal right to do it, I would say we do within so many feet of a bus shelter," City Attorney Marion Radson said. "And it would probably have to be a bus shelter because it's a limited area that's designated for a specific purpose, and we can regulate those type of public places differently than those that are open to the public generally. It would be considered like a subway station in effect or an airport terminal."

At a Butler Plaza bus shelter Wednesday, several people waiting for the bus said they did not smoke and supported the ban under consideration. One woman who did smoke walked away from the shelter before lighting up a cigarette as a courtesy to the others.

City commissioners sent the potential ban to the city's RTS Advisory Board for review and a recommendation on whether or not to move forward.

Commissioner Scherwin Henry questioned whether the city could effectively enforce the ban.

On Wednesday, Donovan, whose father died of lung cancer from smoking, said he hoped most people would practice "self enforcement" should the city broaden the ban.

"If people know there is a law against something, most of us obey that law," he said.

Donovan said he believed that should a trend of violations occur at one site, "it wouldn't take too many fines before people were more cautious about lighting up."

The ordinance adopted in October bans smoking at the Rosa Parks RTS Downtown Station, except within designated smoking areas. The fine for each violation is $75, and police and code enforcement officers are authorized to enforce the ban.

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