Smoke And Fire

Debate gets going during second reading of smoking ban

By Richard Davis
TFW Staff Writer

(Staff Photo: Richard Davis) Will ash trays like this one at Kingfish become relics of the past?

About seven-and-a-half months.

That’s about how long you can smoke ’em if you got ’em in Fayetteville bars if a change to the city’s smoking ordinance gets approved.

The “main event,” as Mayor Lioneld Jordan put it — the second reading of a proposal that would essentially end smoking inside places of business — started off with a quick fix to the ordinance change. Council member Adella Gray asked to tack on an amendment that would delay the start date until Jan. 2. Normally, council actions take effect 31 days after passing, meaning a ban could otherwise have started as soon as early as July. Gray said she thought it would be good to give bar owners a longer chance to adjust to the change.

Of course, the start date is a moot point until all the public comment is completed and the council actually votes on the potential ban. The council got down the “main event” about 15 or 20 minutes into the meeting and comments were still going strong around 7:45 p.m. when I left the meeting.

While attendance wasn’t the overflowing house the council chamber played host to during the 2003 scene when smoking in restaurants was the debate, about 80 to 90 people showed up. Almost absent for the first reading of the ordinance proposal, more opponents showed up to give their views during the second go-round.

Supporters and opponents who spoke during public comment time both made some good points, but each side’s arguments boiled down essentially to two perspectives.

• For supporters of the smoking ban, it’s a health and safety issue. Workers and patrons are protected by other forms of government regulation inside establishments: food inspections, fire codes, OSHA regulations, for example. Since secondhand smoke is harmful — something even opponents were quick to agree with — the council has an obligation to regulate it.

• For opponents, it’s a matter of being able to choose, even if that choice is detrimental. Numerous opposition speakers mentioned there are several nonsmoking bars already in business in Fayetteville for people who want to drink or work in that environment. From their perspective, business owners, patrons and even workers are choosing to be in a smoking environment and should be allowed to continue to do so.

A third and final reading of the proposed ordinance change will take place at the next city council meeting. The change needs six out of eight votes on the council for approval.

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