City buildings should be smoke-free

Published 10:40 pm Friday, January 22, 2010

At the most recent Demopolis City Council meeting last Thursday, members of the teen groups TEMPO (Teens Empowering and Motivating their Peers to Opt out) and YEP! (Youth Empowerment Program) from Demopolis High School and John Essex High School presented a proposed ordinance to the council banning smoking in public places.

The ordinance was open-ended, allowing council members to decide which buildings it would ban smoking in. The council decided to table action on the ordinance until its next meeting on Feb. 4.

You don’t have to be a smoker to understand that cigarette smoke is irritating in many ways to non-smokers. Not only does it affect people physically with respiratory ailments, but it also makes people’s hair and clothing smell of cigarette smoke as well. Anyone who has spent more than 30 seconds where people are smoking can vouch for that, and having a smoking or non-smoking area doesn’t cancel it out. Smoke doesn’t stop at the border of the smoking area just because a sign is up.

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On the other side of the coin is a business’s right to allow smokers into their business if they want to. Businesses want to do what is good for their business, and if they feel that making their business a smoke-free building would cause a decline in customer sales, then they should be able to allow people inside who smoke.

In Demopolis, I haven’t seen a business where this is an issue. Either smokers are courteous enough to not smoke in the businesses I’ve been to or there just aren’t that many smokers in this area. When it becomes an issue, the business owners may notice a decline in sales to non-smokers. Shopping locally is important, but if the difference is shopping locally where there is a lot of cigarette smoke or shopping for the same thing somewhere else , I can see a number of folks opting for the non-smoking business.

I think the city should tend to its own buildings in this case. Ban smoking in all municipal buildings, which to me includes City Hall, Rooster Hall, the Demopolis Public Library, the post office, the police station and city court, the fire stations, the school board office and any schools. (I realize some of these may be redundant, as they disallow smoking already.)

Let other businesses decide for themselves if they want to make a policy or not. This has nothing to do with chemical trucks or governmental takeover of local businesses. It is about health and common courtesy for others. Ban smoking in buildings where people have to go to do their business. It is a matter of life and breath.

David B. Snow is the managing editor of the Demopolis Times.