Designated smoking area built for Boone County courthouse courtyard

HARRISON, Ark. - A few months ago the group Ignite approached the Boone County quorum court to try to make the courthouse courtyard a smoke-free area.

County Judge Robert Hathaway said, "Had about five or six big old bags of cigarette butts."

The county judge said smoking in the county courthouse courtyard is an issue.

Hathaway said, "They was smoking at the other gazebo and around the monuments and things like that."

So he decided on a compromise.

"I felt this building is a place of stress anyway. And not all of them are criminals. A lot of them are the victims. So they needed a place to get rid of their stress, and I wasn't going to be the one to take that away from them. So with Ignite we decided we would designate an area," Hathaway said.

That area is this new gazebo: about 70 feet away from the courthouse.

It cost about $8,000 from a special county fund the judge can use for upkeep of the courtyard to build it.

"We just try to relocate all in one spot," Hathaway said.

Justice of the Peace Fred Woehl said he thinks it's a great compromise.

Woehl said, "I don't smoke. And I don't like to breathe smoke but if somebody does it's a choice that they make, and as a JP we serve everybody: smokers and non-smokers. So I support the fact that they now have a place to go and smoke."

The group Ignite has also recently approached the quorum court about Tobacco 21, which would make it illegal for businesses to sell tobacco products under the age of 21, instead of 18.

But this idea the JPs are not as willing to compromise on.

"If somebody's 18, they're old enough to serve their country, they're old enough to make up their mind if they do smoke," Woehl said.

And JP Glenn Redding said the federal and state agencies said they would not enforce it.

"Director Goode told me no, we're not going to enforce different laws in different counties and different cities. So what they're going to do is they're going to enforce the under age of 18 tobacco laws."

As for the gazebo, there's no penalty yet for people who smoke in the courtyard.

"If they don't want to follow the rules and stuff, then we may make it a non-smoking area all together," Hathaway said.

Redding said he plans to review the state statutes to make sure the gazebo is within those laws.

The gazebo's roof needs to be installed and paint applied.

In regards to Tobacco 21, the city of Harrison did pass the ordinance and it will go into effect in the city on January 1.