Town considers smoking ban at bus stops

FRONT ROYAL – The town may soon make it illegal to smoke at school bus stops.

The Town Council agreed at its work session Monday to pursue passing an emergency ordinance that would prohibit smoking at bus stops in Front Royal. Neither the town nor the county has such a ban. Should the council adopt such an ordinance, the ban would only affect stops in the town’s corporate limits.

Councilman Chris Morrison brought the idea before council who then heard from two parents concerned about children’s exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke at bus stops. One parent said she was shocked to learn that the town has no such bans on smoking. She added that Winchester does have an ordinance that prohibits smoking at stops.

Mayor Hollis Tharpe said he would support bringing an ordinance before council that would prohibit smoking at bus stops.

The process to create and adopt an ordinance could take about two months, Town Attorney Doug Napier said earlier in the session. Council would need to hold public hearings on the proposed regulations. Napier suggested in the meantime that the council direct Town Manager Joseph Waltz to put up signs at the bus stops. Signs would deter most people from smoking at the stops until the town adopts the regulations, Napier said. The council and the town manager have authority over the public rights of way, the attorney noted.

The council could pass an emergency ordinance and put a prohibition into effect sooner, Napier said later.

Tharpe said he didn’t support signs given the “hundreds and hundreds of bus stops” the town has. The process would be cumbersome, Tharpe said.

“I think educating the public, No. 1, would be the first step,” Tharpe said. “No. 2 would be pass an ordinance, whether it’s emergency or not.

“I don’t think anybody on council is gonna have any hard problem with passing this,” Tharpe said.

Morrison explained a benefit of the emergency ordinance.

“It’s two months they don’t have to breathe smoke involuntarily,” Morrison said.

Councilman Jacob Meza asked when members last used an emergency ordinance to expedite the adoption of a regulation. Such action is one tool at council’s disposal, Tharpe said.

An emergency ordinance requires only one reading and a vote by council, Napier explained. Ordinances usually require council approval on two separate readings. Both kinds of ordinances require a public hearing.

Council could adopt an emergency ordinance for the prohibition based on the public health and safety at risk, Napier said.