Residents, visitors say they're in favor of Columbus smoking ban

November 21, 2009 9:51:00 PM

Kristin Mamrack -


As the city readies to weigh public input on new citywide smoking rules at a hearing Tuesday, residents and visitors to Columbus, randomly surveyed Friday, all supported the council passing a city-wide smoking ban. 


“I think it’s good (to ban smoking in public places),” Corey Thompson, of Columbus, said while shopping at Leigh Mall. “The people who don’t smoke don’t want to be around it and the smokers can go outside, I guess.” 


“I don’t smoke,” said Jamelia Joiner, of Macon, who was dining in Columbus. “I think it’s a good idea.” 


“That’s a good idea (to) ban people from smoking,” agreed Shedrick Shanklin, of Macon. “I can’t stand all that smoke.” 


“I absolutely want them to ban it,” said Loretta Tucker, of Columbus. “I don’t think it will hurt businesses. I think it will help, because people can go to public places and won’t have to worry about smoking and non-smoking areas. I think it should just be non-smoking.” 


A public hearing on the proposed smoking ban will be held Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the Columbus Municipal Complex. 


The ordinance, proposed by Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box, bans smoking in “all enclosed public places,” including restaurants. 


However, the ordinance, which largely is modeled after a Tennessee state law, allows smoking in “age-restricted venues,” or bars, restaurants and other establishments which only allow people age 21 or over to enter, and “private clubs,” which restrict access to the general public. 


As written, the ordinance allows businesses with three or fewer employees to designate enclosed smoking rooms, inaccessible to the general public. 


Additionally, exemptions are provided for “non-enclosed areas of public places, including, open-air patios, porches or decks.” 


“I don’t smoke, so it doesn’t matter,” said Michelle Banks, who was visiting from Arkansas. “It would probably matter to a person that smokes, but to me, it’s better for people who don’t smoke, because we don’t want secondhand smoke.” 


“I don’t smoke, so (a ban) doesn’t bother me,” said Douglas Frierson, of Columbus. “I think (a ban) is good, because a lot of people don’t care about blowing smoke in your face.” 


“In places, they should (ban smoking),” said James Alford, an Ackerman resident who smoked for more than 40 years, until he quit smoking about eight years ago. “But I think, if you’re out in the open and you’re by yourself, you should be allowed to smoke.” 


Freddie Fields, owner of Fuggetaboutit bar and restaurant downtown, said he would support a ban. 


“During the day, we have a lot of young kids in here, my grandkids come in here to eat. I would support a smoking ban in public places because there are concerns about second-hand smoke,” he said. 


Fields said he plans to build a patio in the back for those who want to smoke. 


“It will be a covered place so they can have somewhere to go when it rains,” he said. 






Proposed ordinance  












WHEREAS, scientific studies have found that tobacco smoke is a major contributor to indoor air pollution; and 


WHEREAS, such scientific studies, including studies by the Surgeon General of the United States, have shown that breathing secondhand smoke poses a significant health hazard; and  


WHEREAS, the Mayor and the City Council find and declare that the purposes of this ordinance are to protect the public health and to promote the general welfare of its citizens by prohibiting smoking in public places and places of employment; and 


WHEREAS, the Mayor and the City Council find it in the best interest of the public health and welfare to provide a copy of the Smoking Ban Ordinance; 






1. Short Title. 




This Ordinance shall be known and may be cited as the "Columbus, Mississippi Non-Smoker Protection Act". 




2. Definitions. 




As used in this part, unless the context requires otherwise: 




(1) "Acceptable form of identification" means: 




(A) A state-issued driver license; 




(B) A state-issued identification card; 




(C) A valid passport; or 




(D) A valid military identification card; 




(2) "Age-restricted venue" means a legal establishment that affirmatively restricts access to its buildings or facilities at all times to persons who are twenty-one (21) years of age or older by requiring each person who attempts to gain entry to such buildings or facilities to submit for inspection an acceptable form of identification for the express purpose of determining if the person is twenty-one (21) years of age or older; 




(3) "Employee" means a person who is employed by an employer in consideration for direct or indirect monetary wages or profit and a person who volunteers such person's services for a non-profit entity; and 




(4) "Employer" means a person, business, partnership, association, corporation, including a municipal corporation, educational institution, trust, or non-profit entity that employs the services of one (1) or more individual persons; 




(5) "Enclosed area" means all space between a floor and ceiling that is enclosed on all sides by solid walls or windows, exclusive of doorways, which extend from the floor to ceiling; 




(6) "Health care facility" means an office or institution providing care or treatment of diseases, whether physical, mental, or emotional, or other medical, physiological, or psychological conditions. This definition shall include all waiting rooms, hallways, private rooms, semiprivate rooms, and wards within health care facilities; 




(7) "Person" means an individual, partnership, committee, association, corporation or any other organization or group of persons; 




(8) "Place of employment" means an enclosed area under the control of a public or private employer that employees normally frequent during the course of employment, including, but not limited to, work areas, private offices, employee lounges, restrooms, conference rooms, meeting rooms, classrooms, employee cafeterias, hallways, and vehicles. A private residence is not a "place of employment" unless it is used as a child care, adult day care, or health care facility; 




(9) "Private club" means any club or organization that does not permit the general public access to its facilities or activities. Access is denied to anyone who does not agree or adhere to the rules of membership. In order to be considered a private club or organization for purposes of this part, the club or organization shall adhere to all of the following criteria: 




(A) Have a permanent mechanism to carefully screen applicants for membership on subjective rather than objective factors; 




(B) Limit access and use of facilities, services and activities of the organization to members and guests of the members; 




(C) Be controlled by its membership and operate solely for the benefit and pleasure of its members; and 




(D) Advertise exclusively and only to its members, excluding membership drives; 




"Private club" also means any institution or organization that has received a determination of exemption from the Internal Revenue Service under United States Code 26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(19); 




(10) "Public place" means an enclosed area to which the public is invited including, but not limited to, banks, educational facilities, health care facilities, hotel and motel lobbies, laundromats, public transportation facilities, reception areas, restaurants, retail food production and marketing establishments, recreational facilities, retail service establishments, retail stores, shopping malls, sports arenas, theaters, places of employment and waiting rooms; 




(11) "Restaurant" means an eating establishment, including, but not limited to, coffee shops, cafeterias, sandwich stands, and private and public school cafeterias, which gives or offers for sale food to