by Victor Lopez
ECTOR COUNTY--Smokers in Odessa are quickly running out of places to light up. Medical Center Hospital's decision to go tobacco free isn't completely to blame for a similar ban at the Ector County Library, but you could say it was the straw that broke the camel's back.
"There's lots of cigarrette butts and things thrown around," Library Director, Rebbecca Taylor, said.
Evidence of the problem lay just feet from the front door. Cigarrette buts, empty packs and other trash, right where someone left them. The staff at the Ector County Library said, enough is enough. According to Taylor, "We tried posting signs, no smoking, out there by the entry but most people kind of disregarded those. I think they probably figured that it was just for inside the building."
So they took their problem to a higher authority.
"We did approve to make the Ector County Library and it's property a smoke free facility. Otherwise, we're going to be a large attraction for the smokers and thus, even more littering problems," Ector County Judge, Susan Redford, said.
The smoking laws that apply on one side of the street, now apply on the other.
"When we set up a non-smoking campus, that means the entire property, including the parking lot, just as it does over at the hospital," Taylor added.
According to Judge Redford, the libray isn't the only building feeling the effects of a smoke-free environment. The courthouse is having problems of it's own.
"Anytime you invite the public into a building, you are going to have issues of this nature especially in the downtown area. We have really large littering problems and it's difficult to keep the areas clean and inviting to the public," Redford said.
With smoking allowed and an ash can provided, why not use it? Redford responded, "I wish I could answer that because it is a large pet peeve of mine and many others in the county as well.'
But as Redford also reminds you, stepping on that cigarrette butt could cost you, "They could be cited for littering and that is an approach that we will be taking at the library to make sure that the new rules are enforced."
Taylor says they aren't calling out the smoke police just yet, but they do have an option, "If you must smoke, smoke where it's appropriate. The park is so handy, it's right next door and it's an open air area and shady and everything."
If you're having similar problems at a business or office downtown, Judge Redford recommends providing ashtrays outside to encourage smokers to use them, otherwise it would take a city or county ordinance to keep people from smoking in certain areas all together.