Booneville smoking ban draws support, jeers

By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal

BOONEVILLE – City leaders are taking more time to evaluate an ordinance to ban smoking in public places after listening to comments at a public hearing on Monday.
About three dozen people at the hearing heard from professionals and private individuals on both sides of the issue.
While there were a number of speakers opposing and supporting the ordinance, a large enough cross-section of the community may not have been heard to reach a decision yet, the mayor said.
“We just need a little more time to gather input from the community and give the board a chance to see how they want to go,” he said, so the issue was not on Tuesday’s city board agenda.
“I ask you not to push us out,” said Jerry Livingston, an acknowledged smoker who said he opposes the proposed ordinance. “Let the business owners make the decision.”
Livingston was the first of about 10 people who gave their input to the mayor and aldermen.
Following him was business owner Billy Williams, who soon plans to expand beyond his current North College Street business interests by opening a restaurant.
“I bought and paid for my business, and I feel like I should be able to run it the way I like,” Williams said. He said he will have both a smoking and a non-smoking section in the restaurant, and “everybody is welcome.”
To open the public hearing, Mayor Joe Eaton introduced Faith Robinson of the Mississippi Tobacco-Free Coalition to present a powerpoint presentation about the effects of secondhand smoke.
Activist James Wroten said he has been pushing for an ordinance to ban smoking in public places with city administrations for several years and urged the city board to adopt the new law.
Kay Jackson also supports the ordinance, saying she has health issues that would be helped by a ban, while Bill Thrasher, who opposes the ordinance, called the possible adoption of the ordinance “meddling in something you don’t ought to be meddling in.”
Though she is a nonsmoker and a home health nurse, Marti Perne said she does not support the ordinance because it is an infringement of personal liberty.
Larkin Kennedy, CEO of Baptist Memorial Hospital-Booneville, said the entire hospital campus is smoke-free, and he has written a letter supporting the ban. He explained free classes are offered at the hospital to help people quit smoking, and free nicotine products are available after the classes are over for support.
“We feel having a no-smoking policy in public places would be a good message for our children,” said Anderson Elementary School Principal Beverly Hill.
Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@djournal.com.