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Monticello newest city to be smoke-free

The city of Monticello has joined otherregional communities, including Brookhaven, by institutingsmoke-free policies.

    An ordinance passed in December became active Jan. 17, banningsmoking inside buildings used by the public and within 10 feet ofthe front entrance.

    Mayor Dave Nichols deemed “a healthy society” one of the motivatingfactors in establishing the ordinance.

    Casey Ward, a regional project director with the MississippiTobacco Free Coalition, worked with the city to move towardsmoke-free status. City leaders have considered anti-smokingmeasures for years, but recent decisions by some businessesprompted the city to finally take action on the idea, according toWard and Nichols.

    “All the restaurants are now smoke-free so we were able to go aheadand push forward,” Ward said.

    The idea had been on the table before, with city leaders lookinginto it several years ago, Ward said. The recent, successful pushbegan in October.

    Nichols described the new ordinance as the city adopting what muchof the community has already decided.

    “Pretty much everyone in town had already done it,” Nichols said.”It was one we had been considering for some time and the boardfinally stepped up and did it.”

    Georgia-Pacific became smoke-free in January 2011 and the LawrenceCounty Hospital followed in July 2011, Ward said.

    Nichols said one seasonal business in Monticello may be affected,but all permanent businesses are already in compliance.

    Monticello becomes the 48th Mississippi city to adopt citywidesmoke-free policies, according to a Mississippi Department ofHealth press release.

    Other cities with anti-smoking ordinances in the Monticello regioninclude Prentiss and Bassfield in Jefferson Davis County, Wardsaid.

    In crafting their ordinance, Nichols said city leaders followed aroute many of those other 47 smoke-free cities took, beginning withan ordinance provided by the Mississippi Tobacco FreeCoalition.

    “We tweaked it a little,” Nichols said.

    Particularly, the city altered some of the fines levied by theoriginal ordinance. City leaders were concerned that businessescould be penalized for the behavior of customers even if thosebusinesses made reasonable efforts to ensure smoking did not occur,Nichols said.

    Nichols also cited grants made available to cities withanti-smoking ordinances as a benefit of the law. Looking to thefuture, Nichols said the city intends to seek grants that wouldhelp local businesses comply with the ordinance.

    “We are working with the Tobacco Coalition to get signs forbusinesses to put inside,” Nichols said.

    Monticello joins Brookhaven, which implemented a full smoke-freeordinance in October 2011. The ordinance Brookhaven aldermenapproved in October strengthened a less comprehensive anti-smokingordinance that had been on the books since 2008.

    In 2002, Monticello aldermen rejected a proposal by Nichols to passa smoking ban. At that time, he told aldermen Monticello would bethe first Mississippi town to pass such an ordinance.