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Council OKs smoking ban
Mayor undecided on veto:
'I really do not like the ordinance'

By Evan Belanger
evanb@decaturdaily.com 340-2442

The debate over whether Decatur will allow smoking in public places may not be over.

The City Council voted 3-2 Monday in favor of a comprehensive smoking ordinance that bans smoking in all public places, including bars, restaurants and outdoor sporting arenas, but Mayor Don Kyle says he has not decided if he will veto it.

Under Decatur City Code, Kyle has 10 days to issue a veto and return the ordinance to the council with a written explanation. The council can then attempt a compromise or let the ordinance die.

During Monday's meeting, Kyle said he is not against Decatur having a stronger smoking ordinance but there are aspects of the new ordinance he does not support.

"I really don't like the ordinance. I think there's some small businesses that will suffer," Kyle said. "But I think we can achieve close to 100 percent of the goal that I'm hearing most frequently from the public, and that is a desire for smoke-free dining."

A former smoker himself, Kyle said he would support an ordinance that allows business owners to choose whether they will allow smoking, but forbids will allow smoking, but forbids them from serving or hiring minors if they are not smoke free.

If Kyle does veto the ordinance, it is unlikely the council will be able to muster the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto.

Councilmen Ray Metzger, District 5, and Gary Hammon, District 3, both voted against the measure. After the meeting, both said they will not change their votes to approve the ordinance as it is currently written.

"All I want is the minimum that will allow non-smokers to not be exposed to smoke," Hammon said. "That's the proposal that I had, that's what Huntsville has and that's what Madison has."

Proposed by District 4 City Councilman Ronny Russell, the smoking ordinance, unless vetoed, takes effect Oct. 1.

Russell said Monday he was pleased the ordinance passed but he was disappointed Kyle is considering a veto.

"If the mayor does that, he's killing any chance we have at getting a revised ordinance," Russell said.

He said simply forbidding minors from entering local smoking establishments is not enough since that would not protect adults from the dangers of second-hand smoke. In particular, he said, employees at businesses that allow smoking should not have exposure to second-hand smoke forced on them.

Prior to Monday's vote, the council heard lively debate from local residents and business owners. Comments were limited to three people on either side, on a first-come basis. Each was given three minutes to speak.

Speakers opposed to the ordinance warned that it could hurt local businesses and said it could lead to over-reaching government control in the future.

"Every time you let the government make a decision for you, you will never make that decision again," said Decatur resident Jody Peterson.

Speakers in favor of the ordinance said the positive health benefits far outweigh any economic concerns.

Dr. James Gilmore a local heart and lung surgeon, said there is no doubt that smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke cause health problems.

"I deal with problems caused by second-hand smoke everyday," he said.

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