Youth group presents council with ordinance

Published 4:25 pm Saturday, January 30, 2010

Representatives from the high school program YEP! — Youth Empowerment Program — and TEMPO — Teens Empowering and Motivating their Peers to Opt out — presented a suggested ordinance to the Demopolis City Council on Thursday that would prohibit smoking in public places.

The council decided to table action until its next meeting on Thursday, Feb. 4, at 5:15 p.m.

YEP! and TEMPO are high school groups focuses on health issues regarding the use of tobacco, and are a part of the Tombigbee Healthcare Authority.

The ordinance calls for smoking bans in all enclosed public facilities in the city of Demopolis, including libraries, theaters, the Demopolis Civic Center, the Theo Ratliff Activity Center, elevators, health care facilities, polling places, restrooms and Sports-Plex arenas.

“This is a choice ordinance,” said YEP! advisor Michaela Lomax. “We are giving the council the choice of whether they want accept this or to be a part of this.”

“The ordinance gives the council the choice of which buildings and which businesses to include in it,” said Marcia Pugh, the director of GROWestAL, which oversees the teen programs. “For example, they can choose to include libraries, and they can choose to exclude bars. They can choose to include theaters, and they can choose to exclude lounges.

“A lot of businesses are already smoke-free. They just don’t have the signs up. When you go into WalMart, you don’t see people walking around with cigarettes; they just think it’s smoke-free, anyway.”

“The thing is, it may not be smoke-free, but people just expect it not to be,” Lomax said. “What we’re asking is really what’s already done. We’re asking to put it on paper and make it official.”

Lomax and Pugh were both optimistic about the ordinance’s chances of passing.

“We are excited,” Lomax said.

“This is coming a long way,” Pugh said. “We don’t want to tell people what to do. It’s not telling people they can’t smoke; it’s telling people that they can’t smoke someplace that non-smokers have to inhale it.”

Lomax said that more than 60 percent of the cities in Alabama have smoking ordinances in place.

“So, we’re kind of behind, but we’re trying to get on the bandwagon so we can be a part of that,” she said.

“It’s an honor to be a part of that. We’re trying to make history here in Demopolis.”

Earlier in the week, mayor Mike Grayson indicated that he would recommend having the ordinance apply to city buildings only, leaving the option for businesses to determine for themselves if they want to be smoke-free.