November 12, 2013 9:55:05 AM
Nathan Gregory - firstname.lastname@example.org
West Point selectmen discussed a smoke-free ordinance during a public work session last week and have decided not to go forward with one at this time, Mayor Robbie Robinson said Monday.
Robinson brought up the idea of drafting a proposed smoke-free law for all establishments in the city limits after Stephanie Collier, project director of the Office of Tobacco Control in Lowndes, Oktibbeha and Clay counties for Family Resource Center, addressed selectmen last month about the issue.
During a meeting Thursday, Robinson said some selectmen were concerned that passing such a law would be exercising too much control over local business owners. Not enough of them were in agreement to propose a change in smoking regulations to vote in favor of drafting an ordinance, he said.
"I think one of the things that concerns them the most is more government regulation on local businesses," Robinson said. "None of them are smokers that I'm aware of, but they are real keen on the perception that they don't want to over-regulate business. They do encourage local businesses to adopt it and most businesses have."
Collier said in a previous Dispatch article that a smoke-free law would not be "stepping on any toes."
"We're all striving to have a healthier Mississippi -- not just in one region," Collier said. "It's one drop in the bucket just for one city to become smoke-free. Mississippi has gotten a bad rap on just about everything unhealthy. This is a focus on moving towards the right direction."
Starkville became the first municipality in the state to adopt a such an ordinance in 2006. According to the Mississippi Department of Health, 67 towns and cities have followed Starkville's lead.
A partial ban went into effect in 2010 in Columbus. Mayor Robert Smith said he plans to ask city councilmen to consider a comprehensive ban during its retreat next month. Under the current ban, patrons must be at least 21 years old to enter establishments where smoking is allowed inside.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.