COUNTY ENACTS SMOKING BAN

COUNTY ENACTS SMOKING BAN

Two public health issues dominated the actions taken by the Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners at their Jan. 8 meeting.

By a 5-0 vote, the Commission approved an ordinance that will ban smoking in all public places of employment, including bars, restaurants, offices and truckstops in unincorporated areas of the county.

The ordinance will take effect on Feb. 8, 2002, and it will be enforced both by codes officials and deputies of the Doña Ana County Sheriff's Department. The ordinance also allows civilian complaints related to violations to be brought forward with a guarantee of non-retaliation.

Fines for non-compliance will be up to $300 per violation. Both smokers and establishments that permit smoking can receive citations and be fined.

Although Commissioners Carlos Garza and Paul Curry initially wanted to exclude bars and truckstops from the scope of the ordinance, when the other three members of the Commission rejected that amendment, both
Garza and Curry joined the unanimous vote for enactment.

Only two people in the standing-room-only Commission Chambers spoke out against the ordinance. More than a dozen people spoke in favor, and the Commission Chambers was filled to capacity with people wearing white buttons with blinking red lights that read "I support smoke-free indoor air."

In a separate action, the Commission restricted the sale and purchase of over-the-counter medications containing the drug ephedrine. Under the new ordinance, which also will take effect Feb. 8, it will be illegal to sell or purchase more than 100 tablets containing ephedrine in any transaction.

Ephedrin is often distilled from over-the-counter medications for the illegal production of methamphetamine narcotics. The Commission passed the ordinance at the request of the District Attorney's Office.

For more information, call county Public Information Director Jess Williams at (505) 647-7229. Residents calling from outside the Las Cruces area may call toll-free at 1-877-827-7200 and request extension 7229.