City rejects smoking ban in 3-2 vote
Wednesday, November 27, 2013 12:00 AM
A proposed ordinance that would ban smoking in commercial buildings inside the city limits was rejected last week in a 3-2 vote by the Board of Aldermen despite having the support of the mayor.
The proposed ordinance was considered at the request of Beverly Knox with the Mississippi Tobacco-Free Coalition, who told aldermen that similar ordinances were being adopted in cities across the state to create a healthy environment for residents.
The ordinance would have banned smoking inside buildings and within 15-feet of the front doors.
Three aldermen - Josh Gamblin of Ward 1, Jim Fulton of Ward 2 and Alderman-at-large Willie Jackson - voted to reject the proposed ordinance, citing concerns about telling business owners what they could or could not do in their own buildings as well as concerns over how it would be enforced.
Ward 3 Alderman James Tatum and Ward 4 Alderman Cecil Nichols cast dissenting votes.
The mayor disagreed with the three aldermen's concerns.
"Nobody wants government intervention until they have something they don't want to do," Young said. "But, when they want us to control where we put a house, when they want to control where we put a ditch and what we allow behind a house, then they want government intervention."
After Gamblin disagreed again, Young said: "Then we need to tear down all the speed limit signs and let them speed through town like they want to. The majority of people I talked to want the no smoking."
During a lengthy discussion prior to the vote, Young urged support saying he had met with officials from the Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Association and Community Development Partnership who, he said, favored the action.
Young told aldermen he had also talked with numerous business owners and individuals, who mostly favored the no smoking ordinance.
However, he said one automotive business asked for an exemption to allow his employees to smoke in an outside bay area.
Fulton questioned whether exemptions could be made to the ordinance.
The mayor said his overall personal feedback showed 90 percent in favor of a smoking ban.
Gamblin questioned why business owners, particularly those with restaurants, didn't just put no smoking signs on their doors.
"If you don't want someone smoking in your building, you say, no smoking in my business," he said.
Gamblin said one restaurant owner told him that the proposed ordinance would not hurt his business one way or another.
Knox briefly addressed the board, saying the aim was to create a healthy environment.
"It's nothing more than that," she said.
"What about the employees of the businesses that do not smoke? They are forced to work in an environment where smoking is going on. They are inhaling second hand smoke."
She told the board that Philadelphia would be eligible for a Healthy Hometown grant of up to $50,000 should the ordinance be adopted.
"It can't be a partial ordinance to exempt any business," she said.
Jackson questioned how the ordinance would be enforced.
"If we adopt this ordinance, as presented, we are going to have business owners in this community that are not going to cooperate with it," he said.
"What are we going to do? I'm not in favor of policing it. Based on conversations with some business owners, I couldn't support the ordinance that was presented."
Nichols voiced support for the ordinance.
"I don't see any business in Philadelphia, Miss. that would cut this board's throat for going smoke free," he said. "Either it's smoke free or it's smoking. It's one or the other. There are a lot of businesses, like clothing stores, where people don't smoke now. I don't think any business in this city, I really don't, would frown on being smoke free."
Gamblin made the motion to reject the ordinance.
"This is two fold. One, I'm with Willie," Gamblin said. "We don't need another thing to police because we've got some other stuff we need to police. And second of all, I don't think it is our place. That's just my opinion.
"I am sorry. I don't think we need to be telling any business what they can or cannot do."
The motion was seconded by Jackson.
Knox thanked the board of its consideration and vowed to return again.
"Keep fighting," the mayor said.
The Office of Tobacco Control has other programs to spread the message of a smoke-free Mississippi.
This includes community and statewide organizations that target specific populations to prevent youth tobacco use and youth programs like Reject All Tobacco (RAT) and Generation Free.