Teens will again be allowed to use tobacco products in public if the Craig City Council doesn't renew an ordinance prohibiting the action.
A law passed two years ago is scheduled to end Aug. 14, but it doesn't seem likely council members will let it expire. They will consider renewing it at their next two regular meetings and Councilor Tom Gilchrist said he not only would support renewing the ordinance, he would support a law that doesn't sunset as the existing one has.
"It's proved it's benefit," he said. "We should keep it."
Capt. Jerry DeLong, with the Craig Police Department, said there have been 27 citations issued in the past two years to teens caught using tobacco products in public. He said the ordinance has been effective on at lease removing the visible signs of tobacco use by teens.
"It may not have decreased the use of tobacco, but it did get it out of site, which I think is what this ordinance was meant to do," City Manager Jim Ferree said.
The ordinance was passed when a citizen-led group proposed it after seeing the number of teens who loitered near the high school and convenience stores using tobacco products.
DeLong said the law has been a good enforcement tool.
"We know they're probably still smoking, but it's not in the open where everyone can see and school buses with young kids are passing by," he said.
A first violation earns the offender a fine of up to $30 and lands that person in a one-hour class on the use and effects of tobacco. The fine increases to up to $50 for multiple offenses. Class time is bumped to three hours and the offender could be sentenced to complete up to 24 hours of public service.
According to City Attorney Sherman Romney, there have been no three-time offenders in the past two years.
"It seems to be going very well," he said. "I see the benefit."
The benefit of the sentence depends on the parents' attitudes, he said. Some look at the law as a joke and pass that feeling on to their children.
"Kids aren't going to learn anything in class with that attitude," Romney said. "There are some parents who have no ability to affect their children."
He says that is a small percentage of the cases he's seen.
"Violators are given the opportunity for education and treatment," he said.
Eighteen youth have been sentenced to take the class and of those, at least one has quit smoking and two have quit chewing.
The council will consider renewing the ordinance at its regular meeting June 24.
Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at email@example.com.