Gwinnett County broadens prohibitions on smoking and…


“I urge you all to vote yes and put the health of the newest generation – my generation really – first,” Juan Borrego, a graduating senior at Buford High School, said to commissioners before the vote.

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The commission repealed the county’s 2005 Clean Indoor Air Ordinance and replaced it with the Smoke-Free Air Ordinance, reflecting new bans on smoking outdoors. The new ordinance takes effect June 23.

The old ordinance generally prohibited smoking in indoor public places and workplaces. The new one updates the definition of “smoking” to include vaping and e-cigarette use, and bans it in outdoor work areas and public recreation spaces as well.

The old smoking ban contained 12 exemptions, including long-term care facilities, outdoor areas of workplaces and some hotel and motel rooms. Bars and restaurants were exempt if they denied access to minors.

The new ordinance reduces the exemptions to three: private residences, cigar bars and hookah lounges.

Smoking and vaping are now also banned in outdoor arenas, stadiums and amphitheaters in Gwinnett, as well as outdoor public transportation stations. The ban extends to outdoor common areas of multi-unit residential facilities, except in designated smoking areas that must be at least 15 feet from entrances, windows or ventilation systems.

People who violate the ordinance can be fined up to $50. People who own or operate public spaces or workplaces that violate the ordinance can be fined up to $100 for the first offense, $200 for a second violation within a year and $500 for each additional violation within a year.

The American Heart Association, American Lung Association and GUIDE, Inc., a substance abuse prevention organization, collaborated with the county to strengthen the ordinance, Deputy County Attorney Theresa Cox said.

Several people spoke in favor of the new restrictions at last week’s commission meeting and no one spoke in opposition.

Borrego’s twin brother, Marco, referenced the popularity of youth vaping and its harmful effects. The twins founded Vaping-Attention to Prevention, a national nonprofit. Their mother, Justine Henao, is a doctor.

“At a time when my boys are being exposed to more and more youth vaping, this policy will ensure a healthier community and will limit the number of people my boys, and the youth, see smoking and vaping in public places,” Henao said.

Onjewel Smith of Boca Raton, Florida, spoke on behalf of Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, a national organization advocating for smoke-free workplaces.

“This policy is not about banning smoking, but it is about asking people who wish to smoke to do so in ways that do not harm other people,” Smith said. ”Smoke-free policies are good for business. They create environments that are welcoming to everyone.”

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County Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson commended the youth who spoke.

“This is how you demonstrate leadership, is to show up and advocate for things that you believe in,” Hendrickson said.

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