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franklin county times

Views aired on smoking ban

By Staff
HOT TOPIC – Jonathan Wells, above left, addresses the Meridian City Council while his wife, Jan, and he hold their daughters, Hailey, 3, and Caroline, 8 months. Wells was one 21 residents who on Tuesday endorsed a no-smoking ordinance adopted by the Meridian City Council. Photo by Kyle Carter / The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Jonathan Wells' lower lip trembled Tuesday as he paused and tried to keep from crying as he told Meridian city councilmen why he supported a smoking ban they passed last week.
Wells, with his 3-year-old daughter Hailey in his arms, joined his wife at the podium inside the municipal courtroom during a two-hour public forum on a citywide ban on smoking.
Wells' wife, Jan, held Caroline, their 8-month-old daughter.
The Wells family was among about 75 people who packed the municipal courtroom Tuesday for the public discussion on the smoking ban. Forty people signed up to speak; about half supported the ban and the other half were against it.
The Meridian City Council approved a citywide ban on smoking last week. In addition to restaurants and bars, the ordinance would ban smoking in such places as sports arenas and museums.
The ordinance also would prohibit smoking within 25 feet of an open window of a restaurant, museum or sports arena.
First-time violators would face a fine of up to $50; first-time business owners could face a fine up to $100. The proposal awaits the approval of Mayor John Robert Smith who has not said whether he will sign or veto the ordinance but said Tuesday that he would "weigh heavily" the comments residents made during the public meeting.
The mayor has 10 working days to veto the ban, which would give him until Tuesday.
Councilmen Mary B. Perry of Ward 2, Barbara Henson of Ward 3 and Bobby Smith of Ward 5 voted for the Smokefree Air Act. Councilmen George Thomas of Ward 1 and Jesse E. Palmer Sr. of Ward 4 voted against it.
If the mayor vetoes the ban, it would take a fourth council vote for the ban to override his veto.
Bill Baldwin, a Meridian resident who retired from the Navy, asked the mayor to veto the ban.
Like Baldwin, many of those against the ban on smoking in restaurants argue that government should not regulate what owners allow in their restaurants. They say patrons can decide for themselves if they want to eat at a restaurant with a smoking section.
Those who support the ban, however, believe people should be protected from the dangers of secondhand smoke.
Jan Wells said she believes it's the government's responsibility to protect people from the danger of second-hand smoke.
If you have an opinion about the city's smoking ban, The Meridian Star would like to hear from you. Residents can call the Smoking Ban Hotline at 693-1551, ext. 3236, or fax comments to 485-1275. Residents may also send e-mail responses to fcarmichael@themeridianstar.com.
Here is a look at the proposed Smokefree Air Act the Meridian City Council has adopted:
The proposal: Prohibits smoking in restaurants and attached bars; also would ban smoking in such places as sports arenas and museums.
Takes effect: If signed into law by Mayor John Robert Smith, the smoking ban would take effect on Dec. 2; Smith has not said if he will sign or veto the proposal.

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