Physicians want smoking ban put to voters

Having failed to persuade lawmakers to ban smoking in public places, the Mississippi State Medical Association now wants lawmakers to put the question to voters.

The association, which represents Mississippi’s 4,700 physicians, says it will gather petition signatures in doctors’ offices asking the 2015 Legislature to set a referendum.

It’s not a petition campaign to force an election on a state constitutional amendment, which would require more than 100,000 signatures of registered voters, but an effort to persuade lawmakers to call a vote on their own.

Indoor smoking bans have failed multiple times in the Mississippi legislature, although a number of cities have passed them.

In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control found that 24 percent of Mississippi adults are smokers, tied for the sixth-highest rate among the 50 states.

Some 84 cities, including Brookhaven, have enacted smoking bans in public buildings.

Brookhaven aldermen on Oct. 18, 2011, adopted an ordinance banning smoking in all public buildings and businesses. The ordinance replaced the city’s previous smoking ordinance, which installed only a partial ban and allowed smoking in restaurants with separate ventilation sections for the smoking section.

The updated ordinance states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to smoke in indoor public places and in places of employment.” As used in the ordinance, “public places” refers to “an enclosed area to which the public is invited or in which the public is permitted.” Therefore, all privately owned businesses fall under the injunction against smoking in public places in the city.

The injunction also includes a small perimeter around the outside of public buildings. Smoking is prohibited within 15 feet of the front door and 10 feet of the back of any buildings where smoking inside would be banned.

The above story contains reporting by The Daily Leader and The Associated Press.