Dave Brooksher

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August 14, 2014
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Smoking in Nevada City's historic district may become misdemeanor

Wednesday night the Nevada City Council heard an update on enforcement of the no-smoking ordinance from officer Shane Franssen of the Nevada City Police Department. According to Franssen, most of the people cited for violating the ordinance are locals, and he only issues a citation when he is certain that the individual has received at least one warning in the past.

Violating the ordinance is only a municipal infraction, however, and not everyone takes it seriously. There’s a $175 fine but unlike parking and traffic tickets, failure to pay the fine merely sends the account to collections.

“It’s a municipal infraction, so there is no real teeth to the penalty of it,” Franssen said.

“I’ve written tickets to people who crumpled it up and threw it away,” he said. “If they don’t pay the ticket, it goes to collections. But some of these individuals don’t care about their credit.”

To that end, the city is studying the option of upgrading the offense to a misdemeanor — which could have criminal implications.

“We’ve got to do something,” Councilman Duane Strawser said. “They’re laughing at us.”

Some of the other common issues Franssen encounters while enforcing the ordinance are that people are either unaware of the prohibition on smoking in the historic district, or that they have no safe place to dispose of lit cigarette butts.

“Occasionally I see someone chuck their cigarette into a trash can, and the last thing we need is a fire,” said Charles Durrett, during public comment.

At present, there are no designated smoking areas and no suitable receptacles or ash trays — but both solutions met with mixed response from members of the council, and no consensus was reached on either.

There are also concerns about e-cigarettes. Not only can they be used to consume tobacco products, but Franssen told the council that in some recent cases they have also been used to consume marijuana or methamphetamine.

“You can buy vials of THC, so people are walking around vaporizing marijuana,” Franssen said. “That is definitely a concern we have on the front line. We have no idea what people have in these implements that they’re smoking.”

If the city revisits its smoking ordinance, it may be revised to prohibit e-cigarette devices as well.

Concerns have been raised about signage related to the no-smoking ordinance. Some have said the signs are too small, and hung too high above eye level.

Verne Taylor, director of public works, says there is a very good reason for that.

“To me there’s an objection to having it below seven feet, where people could hit it with their heads,” Taylor said. “Any sign I post has to be above seven feet so people don’t hit it.”

To improve the visibility of no-smoking signs in the downtown area, however, Taylor has produced a number of vinyl window decals for businesses which are reportedly available through the chamber of commerce. The city has also produced a larger version of the same sign, which they hope will make it easier to see.

To contact Staff Writer Dave Brooksher, email dbrooksher@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.

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The Union Updated Aug 14, 2014 01:01AM Published Aug 14, 2014 04:00PM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.