Smokers are still free to smoke in bars, adult entertainment establishments, parks and playgrounds after a tougher ordinance failed to pass the Board of Commissioners on Sept. 13.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Elizabeth Ford, director of the Board of Health.
The Clean Air Ordinance would have banned smoking at outdoor venues, parks, playgrounds, entrances and exits to buildings and outdoor service lines such as a waiting line at an ATM.
The ordinance, designed to reduce the effects of second-hand smoke, would have also reduced the number of rooms a hotel could designate for smoking form 25 percent to 10 percent.
“It’s a very small component of that amendment that folks seemed to have heartburn on,” Ford said. “No one spoke out about the parks. No one spoke out about the playgrounds and the service lines.
“Yet, the entire ordinance just got thrown out,” Ford said. “A lot of work, a lot of energy and a lot of safety issues are being completely ignored just to represent a single entity.”
Owners and patrons of bars and adult entertainment facilities were the main opponents of the smoking ban.
Dennis Williams, representing the Pink Pony strip club and the adult entertainment industry, said federal grants received by the county’s Board of Health is meant to encourage people not to smoke, not restrict them from smoking.
“This money was not granted to mandate or force people not to smoke,” Williams said. “It’s to bring the awareness that their choice could be bad.
“It’s being applied by the power of the gun to stop people from smoking or keeping them from having the choice to smoke,” Williams said.
“Where does it stop? Obesity, overweight, diabetes, high blood pressure—are we going to start regulating places like Burger King, Dominos, Waffle House?” he asked. “Granted they’re all bad choices to eat unhealthy food. Again the key word I’m trying to stress here is ‘choice.’”
Frank Redding, who represented 30 clubs, said club owners were willing to install filters to clean the air.
“Love us enough to leave us alone,” he told commissioners.
Smoking ordinance supporter Jordan Graves, who worked on the first smoking ordinance, said he understands that smokers do not want their choices limited further.
“They want the choice to be able to smoke, but they smoke around other people,” Graves said. “I would like the choice of not paying the medical bills of smokers.”
In addition to voting down the ordinance amendment, the board also rejected a proposal by Commissioner Jeff Rader to delay the implementation of the smoking ban in bars and adult entertainment facilities for two years.
Rader said his proposal was designed to give businesses plenty of time to adapt to the ordinance.
“This is not as burdensome and traumatic as some people think,” Rader said.
Ford said the Board of Health will regroup and determine what its next game plan will be.
“Citizens need to speak up and let the legislators know of their displeasure and the workers need to speak up. We went out there to try to protect them.
“It’s not over,” Ford said. “We will continue to try to push this until somebody understands what we’re trying to say.”