Police empowered to enforce smoking ordinance

SPOKANE, Wash. - Smoke near a public entrance and you could get in trouble with Spokane Police. It's been state law for seven years, but only the health district could give you a citation. Now the city will start enforcing it.

The city council passed an ordinance Monday, to allow officers to write tickets for people smoking within 25 feet of public entrances.

"Leave the smokers alone!" Zachariah Keehnen said of the ordinance.

"Smokers are not criminals," William White said.

Smoking enforcement

If smokers don't move when asked, police can hand them a $50 ticket. That would cover the cost of about seven packs of cigarettes.

"It would probably deter people from smoking near doors, I agree with that," smoker Gloria Sevey said.

City spokesman Brian Coddington says the ordinance is needed because the state law only gave ticketing powers to local health districts. Now, officers can tell people to light up somewhere else.

"Their preferred course of action is always to try and look for other means to try and resolve a situation but this is a tool that allows them to enforce the 25 foot rule if they need to," Coddington said.

Smokers say the city should tell them where to smoke.

"Definitely try to find some way of providing designated smoking areas," Keehnen said.

Downtown businesses brought this to the city council. The city and police department say ticketing people is not going to be a top priority, but now they can point to a city ordinance if there's a conflict.