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Lowell OKs watered down smoking ban

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



LOWELL — The town’s comprehensive smoking ban lost a bit of its bite Monday after officials approved a compromise amendment allowing smoking primarily in bars.

The move comes on the heels of months of protests by some of the town’s business owners, bar employees and smokers who have repeatedly packed town hall calling for a complete end to the smoking ban.

The compromise measure, which passed first and second reading on 4-1 votes, allows smoking in standalone bars and bars in a restaurant, private club or other public place that is mechanically separated from the dining and food preparation areas and has a certified ventilation system. In all cases, smoking is not allowed in the presence of anyone under age 21.

Council president John Alessia, D-Ward 3, voted against the amendment.

“If this is passed, at least we’re moving a foot forward,” said Councilman Donald Huseman, D-Ward 1, who came up with the proposed amendments along with Councilman Robert Philpot, R-Ward 2. Huseman was the lone councilman to vote against the ban in the first place.

Councilman Phillip Kuiper, D-Ward 4, said while he does not agree with some of the statements that have been made regarding the issue over the past months calling Lowell a smoking town and implying the smoking ban would somehow affect the community’s youth programs, he is willing to compromise.

“I struggle with that message,” Kuiper said. He also said he is concerned about the amendment’s impact on the Moose Lodge.

The American Legion, which has spoken out about the negative impact of the smoking ban on its business, has an area that can be physically separated from the rest of the club to comply with the new amendment. The VFW is unincorporated and not impacted by the ban. The Moose, on the other hand, does not have an area that could easily be separated to allow smoking under the amendment.

“In some ways I feel like we’re throwing bones out there (for the other businesses). I’d like to reach out to them. The Moose has been mighty good to the town,” Kuiper said.

After the meeting Alessia said putting his personal feelings on the issue aside it was important for residents to know approval of the amendment was not a unanimous decision. He commended Kuiper and Councilman David Gard, D-Ward 5, for their willingness to work with those opposed to the ban.

Under the amendment, smoking is also allowed in places of employment provided that the enclosed areas they occupy are not open to the public. The amendment will take effect this week after notification is published in the newspaper.



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