For years, non-smokers have been complaining about breathing in second-hand smoke in downtown areas, and the Corvallis City Council has been listening. Effective Wednesday, the City Hall block extending to the downtown bus transit is a strictly non-smoking area.
Tanya Lucia, a frequent bus rider, says the smoke bothers her.
“I don’t like it when the wind blows and it’s in my face,” Lucia said, who rode the bus with her granddaughter Wednesday afternoon.
In 2006, the City Council passed an ordinance banning smoking in city parks, special use areas, and city trails. Five years later, the council extended that ban to a 50-foot radius around the Corvallis Public Library downtown. On June 3, the council passed an extension of the ban even more.
The new ban requires smokers to move 10 feet away from the entire City Hall block if they want to light their cigarettes. Smokers also have to stand at least 10 feet away from any bus transit shelter in town or from any city-owned covered biking structure.
Smokers say they aren’t happy about the extended ban.
“They don’t even provide us with an alternate spot to smoke,” said Jennifer Ambrosius, a bus rider.
Other smokers argue that if they are outside, they should be allowed to smoke.
“I really think it’s wrong because I should be able to smoke outside when I want to,” said Tracy Chattum, an Albany resident who rides the bus daily for work.
But other bus passengers say the smoke bothers them, and they would like for smokers to either move or to not light their cigarettes at all.
“I’m allergic to it,” said Kathy Conner, referring to the smoke. “It makes me very blinky and gives me sinus problems, so I try not to be near someone who smokes.”
Conner says she is supportive of the ban. But smokers argue that if people are bothered, they could simply move.
“Really, there are a lot of areas right here to step away,” Chattum said while pointing to various spots at the downtown transit center. “To step away from the smoke. Look at this – look!”
Ambrosius says she is responsible, and makes sure her smoke does not blow into anyone’s face. She says she also throws away her cigarette butts, and believes she should not be punished.
“Instead of punishing the group as a whole, they should actually go after specific ones why just go, ‘toss, who cares!'” Ambrosius said.
With the ban, Ambrosius says she feels ostracized by needing to move at least 10 feet away from the block.
“Where are our rights?” she said. “When do we get a chance to vote on this, have a voice? No, let’s just make laws that aren’t run across the citizens of this town.”
Penalties for smoking in any of the city’s non-smoking areas include a fine up to $500. A first violation within a 12-month period costs between $50-100 depending on the judge’s discretion. A second violation will land smokers a $100-200 fine. If smokers violate the code three times within a year, they each face a $250-500 fine.