Austin is known to be a city with strict smoking regulations, but this weekend’s Fun Fun Fun Fest will be an exception.
The city council authorized five designated smoking areas Thursday for the festival grounds, something the council has done for various events in parks for the past two years.
“The organizer will be setting up designated smoking areas within the event,” said Jason Maurer, Austin Parks and Recreation sales and events manager. “Basically like a beer garden, but for smokers.”
A city ordinance banning smoking in indoor public places passed in 2005, but the council amended it in 2011 to include parks, trails and green spaces, according to city spokesperson Cassandra DeLeon.
The 2011 amendment included a provision allowing exceptions for special events at the organizer’s request. Organizers from this year’s FFF Fest requested this exception.
“It’s not the city doing it,” Maurer said. “It is the event requesting permission under the city smoking ordinance to have a designated zone at a public event where people can smoke.”
Maurer said if the city is in a burn ban, smoking would not be allowed at all, even in designated areas.
“If you’re in a burn ban, it kind of trumps everything and there’s no smoking allowed period, regardless if there’s a smoking zone at an event,” Maurer said. “I know the reggae festival has had smoking zones before … But it really can vary year by year depending on the climate conditions and whether or not we’re in a burn ban. Sometimes we’re in a burn ban for like six months, so it could be a long period of time where you couldn’t even have a smoking zone if you wanted to.”
The city of Austin’s most recent burn ban was lifted Sept. 20, according to the Travis County Fire Marshall’s website.
Maurer said the smoking zones are enforced by the event organizers, but if the city receives any complaints, they will respond to ensure the enforcement is effective.
“You’ll hear a few complaints on each side, after an event someone saw someone smoking outside of an event, outside of a space sometimes,” Maurer said. “There’s just that kind of minor stuff, but I’ve not really heard any big opposition to it.”
Radio-television-film freshman Bridget King said she thinks designated smoking areas are reasonable.
“I think that’s fair because obviously there should be a place for people who do smoke, for them to do that, but it shouldn’t be bothering anyone else,” King said. “If people aren’t into that, then they shouldn’t have to deal with it.”
Speech pathology sophomore Nisha George said she approves of the zones, but thinks they may not be fair.
“Cigarette smoke makes me [nauseated], so I always appreciate smoking zones a lot,” George said. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean I think people should have to go somewhere else to smoke.”