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Actor Sean Penn could face trouble next time he’s in Omaha

Omaha’s tough new anti-smoking ordinance banning the practice in nearly all public places comes with an even tougher enforcement policy.

The Nebraska city’s elected leaders and police department are urging residents who see violations to call the 9-1-1 emergency system for an immediate response.

Omaha banned smoking in public Oct. 2. Penalties are $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second and $500 for the third and subsequent infractions.

Teresa Negron, sergeant in charge of public information for the police, explained the department encourages observers of infractions to pick up the phone to report the infraction – just like they would for any other crime they observe being committed.

In the three weeks since the new smoking ban took effect, people have been observing the law, according to the city prosecutor.

The new smoking ban applies to bars that serve food and those that don’t have keno licenses. Some bars have applied for keno licenses to keep their smokers happy, and a few decided to give up food instead of smoking.

The Mayor’s Hot Line hasn’t had any complaint calls, the 9-1-1 dispatch director said call volume related to smoking complaints has been “insignificant,” and city prosecutor Marty Conboy said he hasn’t had any citations cross his desk.

“We’re very grateful people in the city have taken it seriously,” Conboy told a local television station. “So far, we have not seen any reports or citations. And as near as I can tell, there have not been any arrests.”

The local emergency coordinator and Omaha police don’t agree over how residents should report illegal smoking after the city’s smoking ban.

Douglas County Emergency director Mark Conrey said people should not call 9-1-1 every time they see someone light up in a restricted area. He said the very idea threatens Douglas County’s emergency system.

But, even after Conrey’s concerns, Omaha police insisted residents should use 9-1-1 to report smoking law violators.

The ban affects 97 percent of all Omaha businesses immediately and provides a five-year moratorium on enforcement across the board.


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