Smoking ban extinguished in Monticello

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, June 5, 2002

MONTICELLO — Alderman Tuesday rejected a recommendation byMayor David Nichols to enact a no smoking ordinance in all publicbuildings in town.

A lengthy discussion followed the mayor’s recommendation tocreate a Clean Air Ordinance. Nichols asked the board to considerpassage of an ordinance that would prohibit smoking in any publicfacility, such as restaurants. The ordinance, he pointed out, hadbeen passed in many municipalities across the nation and he showedaldermen a long list of cities which had accepted theordinance.

“We would be the first in Mississippi to do this, but we wouldnot be the first nationally,” the mayor said.

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The timing is fortuitous, he said, because Attorney General MikeMoore was pushing for the ordinance’s passage throughout the stateand promised to give “full-blown coverage” to any municipality whowould pass it.

“The town could benefit greatly from this publicity,” Nicholssaid.

Nichols said the goal of the ordinance was not aimed attargeting smokers, but rather to protect non-smokers from the illeffects of second-hand smoke.

“We’re not preventing smokers from smoking,” he said. “If theywant to walk down the street and smoke or smoke in their own homethey can. We’re just saying they can’t do it in a publicfacility.”

Alderman Dick Reeves voiced the first opposition to theordinance.

“I have a problem telling (a restaurant owner) how to run theirbusiness,” Reeves said. “I don’t think we should tell businessowners how to run their business and regulate something that’slegal.”

Nichols argued that the board already does that. He mentionedbeer sales and setting the hours of those sales and the hours ofgame rooms as examples.

Alderman Steve Moreman said that was true. He added, however,that those were issues that were once considered illegal inLawrence County, and by virtue of making them legal, the town had aresponsibility to regulate them. Tobacco use has never beenillegal, he said.

“I know this (ordinance) is legal,” Reeves said. “I’m just notcomfortable with it. I don’t disagree that second-hand smoke can beoffensive, but I don’t agree with this. I think we’re oversteppingour bounds.”

Reeves said it was the business owners’ and customers’ freedomof choice that should determine the issue. The business ownerscould always say smoking is not allowed in their place of business,and customers could not frequent businesses that allow smoking, ifit offends them.

Aldermen Moreman, Pete Mathews and Jerry Goode vocally agreed.Alderman George Magee remained silent on the issue.

Rather than ban smoking in all establishments, an aldermansuggested the board put teeth into an ordinance that would allowbusiness owners to enforce a no smoking policy.

The suggestion was met with wide agreement. The board approved a$10 fine for smoking where a “No Smoking” sign has been posted.

“Better something than nothing,” Nichols said.