Summit County postpones smoking ban enforcement

Meranda Watling

Impact on Kent still unknown

The proposed Kent smoking ban took another hit this week as neighboring Summit County Council voted to delay enforcement of Summit’s controversial ban, which had gone into effect in February.

At Monday’s Summit County Council meeting, the council voted 6-5 in favor of postponing the countywide ban, mostly to see how a statewide proposal will play out.

Paula Prentice, District 8 Summit County councilwoman representing the southeastern portion of the county, said she voted to delay the ban because it was unfair to small communities, including many in her district.

“Small townships don’t have the ability to make their own proposal on the ban,” Prentice said.

She said larger cities could opt out of the ban with their own legislation, but smaller ones didn’t have the ability to do so, which could affect them financially.

“It’s very unfair to my area,” she said. “People could walk across the street to another business and smoke there.”

Waiting until a statewide ban goes on the ballot will ensure smoking laws are even throughout the state, Prentice said.

The city of Kent will likely also wait for a decision from the state before it enacts any laws banning smoking, Ward 6 city councilwoman Beth Oswitch said.

Summit County’s smoking ban reversal won’t have a big impact on the discussions underway in Kent, she said.

“I think everybody needs to look at their own individual areas,” Oswitch said. “I don’t worry about what Cincinnati is doing; I worry about Kent. It doesn’t matter what Summit County is doing. We’ll decide what’s best for Kent.”

Oswitch said it’s too early in the process to predict how a smoking ban will play out in Kent.

Right now it’s at the stage where the discussion is only beginning.

“Now, there is so much the city is working on that I don’t see the large discussion that needs to take place taking place soon,” Oswitch said.

Aaron Bohannon, coordinator of the Portage County Tobacco Prevention Coalition, which supports a smoke-free Kent, said he is disappointed by the Summit County Council’s decision.

“I’m a little disappointed Summit County Council didn’t stick to their guns and weather some of the negative feedback they may have received in order to see some of the positive results they may have seen,” he said.

Bohannon said the coalition welcomes a statewide ban and said the group will continue its campaign despite the reversal in Summit County.

“I’d be naive if I said it didn’t have an impact,” he said. “What the impact would be, I’m not sure yet.

“The Smoke-Free Kent campaign is a community conversation, and we want to continue the conversation and to answer people’s questions that we know exist, and then kind of see where it takes us.”

Another issue raised by the Summit County Council, and previously by Kent City Council, was the law is difficult to enforce.

“There’s a lot of restaurants and bars I know who were not abiding by it,” Prentice said. “It’s just hard to monitor. You can’t just send police out there (because they have other work to do). … In the scheme of things, smoking seems minor to worry about.”

The Portage County Tobacco Prevention Coalition will be hosting a public forum at 7 p.m. April 6 in the auditorium of Theodore Roosevelt High School. For more information on the campaign visit

Contact public affairs reporter Meranda Watling at [email protected]