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Martha Newman of Decatur shows her support for the smoking ban at Thursday’s rally. Newman suffers from asthma and her father died from complications of emphysema.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Martha Newman of Decatur shows her support for the smoking ban at Thursday’s rally. Newman suffers from asthma and her father died from complications of emphysema.

8 brave the heat to support ban on smoking in Decatur

By Evan Belanger · 340-2442

Triple-digit temperatures this week didn't stop some residents from expressing their support for Decatur's new smoking ordinance.

Eight people braved the heat Thursday to gather outside City Hall in a rally organized by the American Cancer Society.

Debbie Davis, a cancer society representative, said their goal was to tell Mayor Don Kyle not to veto the city's new comprehensive smoking ordinance.

"It's the only kind of ordinance that will protect all employees and all patrons from smoke, and it's the only ordinance that puts all businesses on an even playing field," she said.

Passed by the City Council in a 3-2 decision Monday, the ordinance bans smoking in all of Decatur's public places, including restaurants, bars and outdoor sporting arenas. It is scheduled to take effect Oct. 1, but Kyle says he's considering a veto.

Protesters Thursday carried four banners, each bearing more than 100 signatures from people who support the ordinance. Davis said they have two more banners with the same number of signatures.

"Needless to say, there's a lot of support out there," Davis said. "There's a lot of support for what happened Monday night.

"People want a comprehensive smoking ordinance."

Those at the rally included Bob and Becky Bell, both cancer survivors. Another protester, Martha Newman, said she lost her father to emphysema.

And a notable guest — Bettye Jackson, mother of City Council President Billy Jackson — said she lost her husband to lung cancer 27 years after he kicked the habit.

Late in the rally, two protesters confronted Kyle as he was walking to the elevator. They re-emphasized their support of the ordinance and asked him not to veto it.

Kyle responded that he agreed Decatur needs stronger laws to protect residents from unwanted exposure to secondhand smoke. But he said he was not convinced a 100-percent ban was the answer.

Kyle said banning smoking altogether will probably hurt many small businesses in Decatur and could force some to shut down.

Instead, he proposed an ordinance that lets business owners choose whether they will allow smoking. Minors would be banned from establishments that chose to allow it.

"I think that will eliminate 98 percent of the complaints," he said.

After the encounter, Kyle said the rally would not influence his decision because the protesters did not present him with any new information.

According to city code, Kyle has until Aug. 16 to veto the ordinance. Earlier this week, he said he hoped to make his final decision by Friday.

If Kyle vetoes the ordinance, it is not likely that he can get a compromise passed by the City Council. Of the three councilmen who voted in favor of the ordinance Monday, all say they are not willing to compromise.

Online extra

View the complete smoking ordinance that the Decatur City Council passed 3-2 on Monday night.

Click here to view the pdf.

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