By Justin Cox

Killeen Daily Herald

It's been kicked around for years, but the prospect of an indoor smoking ban has never gotten very far.

Until now.

Tuesday, the Killeen City Council gave unanimous consent to a draft ordinance banning smoking in nearly all public venues within city limits.

As early as March of next year, smoking at a softball game, inside a restaurant or in the breakroom of a public building could constitute a class C misdemeanor and a $2,000 fine.

City Attorney Kathy Davis described the ordinance as a greatest hits collection from similar smoking bans all over the state, tweaked and pieced together to fit Killeen.

While not in its final form, the smoking ban could be approved as soon as next week, and become active after about three months.

The smoking ban would outlaw smoking in all enclosed facilities in a public place, meaning rooms with four walls from floor to ceiling. The ban also extends to a 25-foot radius from any entrance, window or vent where smoking is not allowed.

The ban will extend to include city vehicles, but does not apply to the whole of city property, just the higher traffic areas and entry points for smoke exposure.

Notable exceptions listed in the draft presentation include bowling alleys and bingo halls. Hotels will still be allowed to designate up to 25 percent of rooms as smoke friendly.

Also, any patios or open air sections of restaurants and bars are exempt, though building operators may post a no smoking policy in those areas as well. The rules, at least for the moment, do apply to the clubhouse patio at Stonetree Golf Club.

Public streets and sidewalks within the radius are excluded from the 25-foot buffer zone as well.

The ban would eliminate indoor-designated smoking areas in restaurants and bars if those areas are enclosed.

Smoking would also be prohibited in the seating area of an outdoor arena or stadium, in bleachers or grandstands for use by spectators at a sporting or other public event, during any public outdoor event, including but not limited to parades, carnivals, concerts and inside fenced areas of public swimming pools.

Several councilmen noted some exceptions they'd like to see added.

One such addendum is to differentiate the building owner from the offender. As the ordinance reads now, the proprietor of a building and a person committing the offense are just as liable for a citation.

Davis said that will be modified so that if the building owner makes a concerted effort to inform his or her employees of the smoking restrictions, they would not be subject to penalty. But they cannot simply ignore the law altogether and knowingly allow offenses to take place.

Councilman Larry Cole said he'd like to see the golf club patio exempt and be treated like bars since it's outside.

"The golf club is not a bar," Councilman Juan Rivera said. "We wanted it to be controlled. If we give it to every business owner to decide, we won't be able to (implement it)."

Cole and Davis agreed that enforcement would be challenging in some areas, but specifics of that could be discussed at a later time.

Those additions will be in the final ordinance up for council approval next week.

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