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Council gets plan to ban smoking

By Evan Belanger
ebelanger@decaturdaily.com 340-2442

A proposed ordinance that would ban smoking in all Decatur public places came one step closer to fruition Monday.

During the Decatur City Council's work session, District 4 Councilman Ronny Russell introduced an ordinance calling for a ban on smoking in all public places, including bars, restaurants and public sporting arenas.

The proposed smoking ban is scheduled for a public hearing at 7 p.m. Aug. 6 in the City Council chambers. The council is expected to vote on the measure following the hearing.

If passed, the ordinance could take effect as early as Oct. 1, according to Russell, who says he was once forced to quit a job because he was allergic to the secondhand smoke he was constantly exposed to.

"Cigarette smoke causes cancer and is a contributor to many other diseases and health conditions," he said. "My health should not be put at risk because you choose to put yours at risk."

According to Russell, the ordinance will protect local business patrons and employees from breathing potentially deadly secondhand smoke.

Some opposition

But not all council members were pleased with the proposed ordinance.

District 3 Councilman Gary Hammon is proposing his own, competing ordinance, which does not call for a total ban on smoking, but allows business owners to decide for themselves.

It is not clear when or if the full council will consider that proposal. Hammon expressed disappointment Monday that his ordinance did not appear on the upcoming meeting agenda but said he would continue pushing the matter.

"My ordinance does what everyone wants it to do," he said. "Common sense tells you a smoking ban is going to hurt local businesses."

In addition to Hammon, Mayor Don Kyle spoke out against a ban on public smoking during Monday's meeting.

A former smoker himself, who underwent surgery for prostate cancer in February, Kyle said his reasons for opposing the ban are mostly economic.

"If you talk to most people that do smoke — if they're honest — I think they'll tell you they wish they'd never started, but a businessman who is not requiring anyone to step through those doors ought to have the right to choose."

Kyle has spoken previously against Russell's proposal, saying he is not willing to go that far. He said he would support an ordinance that allows business owners to choose.

In addition to city officials, a number of local residents and business owners shared their opinions on a smoking ban during Monday's session.

Felicia Moody of Tony's Country Cooking in Decatur said about 80 percent of her customers smoke and a ban would seriously impact her business.

But according to local resident Becky Bell, a cancer survivor, an economic argument is not a good reason for refusing the proposed ordinance.

"If it is a comprehensive smoking ordinance, then they will be on the same playing field as everyone else," she said.

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