Branson Inches Closer to Becoming Smoke-Free City

KFTA via KOLR--  The public can now read the details of Branson's proposal to become a smoke free community. City leaders will present the changes during a forum this Thursday.

While Branson's smoke free draft ordinance is similar to Springfield's smoke free ordinance in many ways, the city of Branson has decided to include the prohibition of the use of e-cigarettes-- which has some users concerned.

"As a vapor, I don't have to vape everywhere-- just like I didn't smoke everywhere," says Puff Smart Store Owner and E-Cigarette User Ginney Johnson. She says it took her years to quit smoking.

"I wasn't going to quit, I didn't want to quit, I enjoyed smoking," she says. "But the truth of the matter is, you have carcinogens, you have tar, it affects air quality. Vaping and smoking are two very different things."

But according to Branson's smoke free proposal, e-cigarettes are included in the products people will not be able to use in public places.

"They don't have the time to go around and say they aren't smoking-- they're vaping," says Johnson.

City leaders say e-cigs are also not FDA regulated.

"It should just be looked at the same as cigarettes for health effects," says Branson's Planning & Development Director Joel Hornickel.

In Springfield, since a smoking ordinance on the square was implemented in April, research indicates smoking there has been reduced by 70-80 percent. That ordinance, though, allows the use of e-cigarettes.

"It hasn't really been an issue for us up to this point," says Rusty Worley, Executive Director of the Urban Districts Alliance. "But sometimes, it can be difficult for officials to distinguish what's a cigarette and what's an e-cigarette."

Branson's draft currently does not include sidewalks and parking lots-- meaning smoking can still take place there. That's something e-cigarette users say they hope doesn't change.

"But if you're out here walking down a sidewalk or something like that and they write me a ticket for vaping in public-- what's gonna be next?" says E-Cigarette User Woody Ashby. "That's my concern-- how much leeway are we going to give these officials to dictate how we live?"

Right now, the draft includes banning smoking in restaurants, hotels and bars-- and would also require smokers to be a certain distance away from doors.

The proposed ordinance would also apply to city parks.

Community members can ask questions and state concerns at a public forum this Thursday at the Branson RecPlex -- that will be held from 6:00-8:00 p.m.

The draft text is also available here.

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