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Buda to limit smoking near municipal facilities

Striking up a smoke on or near Buda city property will soon be a thing of the past after city leaders June 5 nixed the practice.

The measure, approved by the a 6-0 Buda City Council decision, prohibits the use of tobacco and smoking within 30 feet of city facilities, in city vehicles and on city equipment. The ban does not apply to public spaces in Buda, unless a person is operating a city vehicle or using city equipment.

Currently, Buda does not have any smoking restrictions in its code of ordinances. According to city documents, the intent of the ordinance is to “protect public health by providing a smoke-free and tobacco-free environment for the employees of and visitors to city facilities.”

The original language of the proposed ordinance calls for a person to be at least 50 feet away from a city building area when using tobacco products. The ordinance also made it unlawful to smoke “while driving or riding in a city vehicle or while operating city equipment.”

The ordinance also includes electronic smoking devices and violation of the ordinance would result in a $500 fine.

Buda Mayor George Haehn, who is a smoker, said June 5 the 50-foot distance requirement sounded a little restrictive.

“I’m open to discussion as far as distance, I just think 50 is a little excessive, 15 may be a little slight. So I’m open to suggestions of anywhere between that,” Haehn said.

The city of Austin has several smoking and tobacco ordinances, one of which banned smoking in public places in 2005 including “within 15 feet from an entrance or openable window of an enclosed area in which smoking is prohibited,” according to city of Austin documents.

Standard city roadway lanes in the U.S. are typically anywhere from 9 to 12 feet wide. Buda’s Main Street could be around 24 feet across, adding a couple of feet on each side for shoulders and 5 feet for sidewalk width, making the right-of-way around 50 feet.

Following this ordinance, a person would have to be across the street from City Hall and even past the sidewalk to smoke a cigarette or e-cigarette.

City Attorney George Hyde explained during the meeting why city staff made the distance so large.

“Just from a practical enforcement perspective, I think feet become inches when it rains or when it’s cold. And so you find out it’s 50 inches not 50 feet in inclement weather,” Hyde said. “Fifty feet makes it harder for people to squeeze into five feet.”

Several other council members, including council members Lee Urbanovsky and Evan Ture, believed 50 feet seemed too restrictive.

“Thirty seems reasonable. It gets you away from this property, but not so much so that it’s passing an entire street width,” Ture said.

Council unanimously approved the ordinance as written, but with the revision of the regulation prohibiting tobacco within 30 feet instead of 50 feet. Council member David Nuckels was absent and did not vote.

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