Citizens’ views on smoking mixed

Published 6:40 pm Wednesday, May 26, 2010

As the state Health Department leads a statewide campaign toeducate Mississippians about the dangers of second-hand smoke, andlocal anti-smoking activists push city leaders to make Brookhavencompletely smoke-free, citizens seem to be mixed in their views ofthe issue.

On the one hand, people think it should be their decision tolight up if they want to.

“It’s my life. I should be able to do what I want with my ownbody,” said Caseyville’s Tony Moak. “The government andmunicipalities have too much control over us as it is.”

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On the other hand, some people feel bad choices need to begoverned.

“If they’re not going to decide not to smoke, someone needs tohelp them,” said Derrick Evans of Brookhaven. “We don’t allowpeople to just commit suicide either.”

In May of 2008, the Brookhaven Board of Aldermen passed anordinance to make businesses in the city smoke-free if they wantedto opt in. In addition, there is no smoking in public sports arenasas a result of the ordinance.

Recently, anti-tobacco lobbyists came before the board torequest their consideration on making Brookhaven completelysmoke-free, in any business or public place. The board said they’dtake it under advisement.

Statewide attention on the matter focuses on reducingsecond-hand smoke, which Brookhaven residents have mixed feelingson.

“I mean really, if I’m smoking on the sidewalk how is thathurting anyone? I think a closed space is bad, sure, but if I wantto smoke in a smoking section of a restaurant or on a sidewalk, Idon’t think anyone should tell me I can’t,” said Candi Morris asshe purchased a pack of cigarettes at a local gas station. “I thinka lot of that second-hand stuff is hype.”

Anna Smith-Semprevivo is a Brookhaven native living in Illinois,which is a smoke-free state. She said when she comes home forvacations, she can see the difference in Illinois and otherstates.

“We just did a road trip back to Brookhaven, and the places thatwe had to stop in at were not smoke free and it was just gross,”she said. “It looked like there was a layer of dirt and tar on thewalls and ceilings. And some of the places with ceiling tiles, thetiles were yellow. By no means do I think that Illinois is perfect,but it does feel cleaner.”

Meanwhile, former Hazlehurst resident Tre’ Bass now owns arestaurant in Baton Rouge, where the Louisiana House Health andWelfare Committee just rejected a bill to ban smoking in bars andcasinos on Tuesday. The state already prohibits smoking inrestaurants, public places, public buildings and most places ofemployment.

Though he is not a smoker, Bass said he believes it should bethe smoker’s and the business owner’s right to choose against whathe calls ‘benevolent tyranny.’

“For the record I’m anti-smoking but pro-private property andpro-personal responsibility. Of course, I’d try to get you to quit,but you’re an adult and can make those decisions yourself, just asthe owner of a business should have the freedom to decide how heruns his establishment,” he said. “Working in the restaurantbusiness has given me the unique opportunity to see all the sidesof this issue and I have campaigned wildly on the side of businessowners and private property and personal responsibility.”

The website for Tobacco Free Kids ( that each year in Mississippi, smoking accounts for anestimated 4,700 premature deaths, including 550 deaths amongnonsmokers as a result of second-hand smoke.

But Morris said that doesn’t worry her.

“We’re all going to die of something. There’s too many kinds ofcancer out there right now to worry about,” she said. “I’m suresomething’s going to get me one day, and I can’t waste my lifeworrying about what it’s going to be.”