Albert Lea City Hall to go smoke-free in January

Published 2:00 pm Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Starting in January, Albert Lea City Hall and its campus will officially be tobacco-free.

The Albert Lea City Council voted Monday to prohibit smoking and any tobacco-related products on the sidewalks around City Hall and in the adjacent city parking lots.

Vern Rasmussen

“The reality is that people who have to use this building have to use it for certain things, and they should not be having to walk through smoke,” said Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen.

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In the next few weeks, city staff will erect signs outside of the building notifying people of the change, and police will have the capability of issuing petty misdemeanor tickets for people in violation.

Third Ward Councilor Ellen Kehr said 79 to 80 percent of the people in Albert Lea do not smoke.

She said the city should be “more aggressive” when it comes to issues of health and wellness.

The vote came after Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce Director Randy Kehr read a letter by Joel Spoonheim, who helped lead the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project in Albert Lea.

Spoonheim encouraged efforts to implement the ordinance, and said that many cities in the country still look to Albert Lea as an example of healthy environmental change.

First Ward Councilor John Schulte V, who voted against the ordinance, said he thinks the legislation takes away choices and limits lifestyle for people.

Sixth Ward Councilor Minnow Brooks said he supported a policy for no smoking at City Hall, but he did not support an ordinance. He said he was worried about how it would be enforced.

Rasmussen said the council may consider some changes at City Arena at a later date.