Smoking in govt. bldgs. outlawed

Published 6:00 am Thursday, March 1, 2007

Mayor Alton Shaw said Wesson’s recent ban on smoking ingovernment buildings was not the result of a current problem, butsomething of a preemptive strike.

“We’re preventing a potential problem,” Shaw said. “We haven’treally had a lot of issues with it. But a problem could develop andrather than just sitting around waiting for that, we decided to beproactive.”

Before the ordinance, it was legal for a person to smoke insideany government building in Wesson, and the only recourse the townhad was to ask the smoker to leave the building. Since there was nolaw; however, there was no way to force them to leave.

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“The way it was set up if someone at a board meeting wanted tojust come up smoking while one of the meetings is going on andeveryone was around, there was no way to stop them,” said Shaw.”There were no rules to tell them not to do that.”

Shaw said the ordinance is simply to protect people who have nochoice but to go into the government buildings, and to keep themfrom having to breathe the secondhand smoke.

“Sometimes people have no choice. If you have to go to City Hallfor something or you have to go to the police department forsomething, there’s not an option,” said Shaw. “We’re just trying tocreate a healthier environment in the places sometimes people don’thave a choice but to go.”

While the ban does apply to the government buildings, the townof Wesson is not moving toward a town-wide smoking ban like theones Hattiesburg and Oxford, among other towns, have put intoplace. Shaw said at this point Wesson is just working towardfinding a way to back up local business owners who don’t wantsmoking in their businesses.

“We think each individual business owner should be able todecide what they want to do with their business,” he said. “We’velooked at creating a way that we could enforce a penalty if someonedoes violate your decision to make your business smoke-free.”

According to Shaw, if someone walks into one of the businessesand it is appropriately marked and the person continues to smoke,the business owner can tell them to leave, but as of right nowthere is nothing illegal about it.

“We’re trying to figure out a way that the business owner cancall the police department and then we could fine it as amisdemeanor,” said Shaw, saying trespassing is a possibility oncethe person has been asked to leave.

Town Attorney Dudley Lampton is currently researching thepossibilities.