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Readers say ban public smoking

By Steve Stewart 340-2444

Nonsmokers complained about secondhand smoke, even outdoors, in response to an online poll about Decatur smoking ordinances.

One compared secondhand smoke with child abuse.

The poll at www.decaturdai gave readers a choice between two ordinances being considered by city officials: ban smoking in all public places, and require business owners to choose between smoking and nonsmoking.

Ninety readers (62.1 percent of the 145 respondents) chose the first option; 55 chose the second. The unscientific, two-day poll ended Monday.

All readers were invited to e-mail signed comments, but opponents of smoking, including some former smokers, were the ones who spoke out.

R.B. Pitts of Decatur said city police and area health authorities do not enforce existing restrictions on smoking in enclosed public places.

"Common sense indicates a half-wall or a row of flowerpots does not keep hazardous secondhand cigarette smoke from invading the open public area where smoking is prohibited," he said. He also complained about outdoor smoking at sports events, which is legal.

"I believe Decatur city officials have a responsibility to protect the public health of our citizens," Pitts said. "If hazardous chemicals or asbestos dust were settling on our community from local industry, they would take quick action to eliminate the problem. Hazardous cigarette smoke is in the same category and should be controlled."

Decatur restaurants lose business and the city loses tax money because nonsmokers eat in cities such as Athens, Madison, Huntsville and Cullman that restrict smoking more, he said.

Former 17-year smoker Wayne Nicklaus of Decatur said if this city bans smoking and smokers want to go elsewhere, "let them go! I think it should be statewide, but that is another story.

"Take a look at California, which has been smoke-free for years. I guess the smokers went out of state to eat."

Phyllis Todd of Decatur said she's allergic to smoke, and "our mayor (Don Kyle) is correct when he says smoke will drift into nonsmoking areas. If the smoke only affected the person who smokes, I'd say smoke yourself to death, but when it affects me, I don't think you have a right to endanger my health or life."

Smoking is a national problem because it can "cost the taxpayers millions of dollars in health care," she said. "... I think smokers should be considerate enough to wait until they get into their automobiles to smoke and let the rest of us breathe clean air."

Tami Maloney of Decatur wrote that "banning smoking in public places is not about removing smokers' rights; it is recognizing nonsmokers' rights." She said she is a "former asthmatic whose father quit smoking 25 years ago to save my life!"

Patricia Dowd of Decatur said smoking should be banned because nonsmokers encounter smoke in workplaces and restaurants.

"My husband and I both were smokers," she wrote. "We quit about eight years ago for my husband's health. ...

"If a smoker wants to harm himself, he should go off and do so by himself or herself and not inflict his addiction on others. We cannot sell cigarettes to children, but you can subject them to secondhand smoke, which doctors say is as bad as the child smoking the cigarette themselves. Is this not a form of child abuse? ...

"I know after the comments from some of the council members in the paper who we will be voting for in the next election."

John R. Hughes of Decatur wrote: "I am in favor of banning smoking in public places altogether — not just because I am allergic to tobacco smoke but because it is still annoying when trying to enjoy a meal. When it comes to smoke, you can't say one side of the room is smoke-free and the other is not."

He and his wife "had just about given up going to City Cafe because most of the time you couldn't get a seat in the nonsmoking section and when you did, you were constantly annoyed by smoke drifting from the smoking section. Now City Cafe is really a good place to go for lunch."

City Cafe banned smoking about six weeks ago.

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