By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal Oxford Bureau
NEW ALBANY – New Albany officials are considering whether to follow some 40 other communities in the state by banning smoking in at least some indoor spaces open to the public.
Tupelo, Starkville, Mantachie, Oxford and Pontotoc are among those in Northeast Mississippi that already have such bans.
Ward 2 Alderman Johnny Anderson made the proposal earlier this month.
“I had several constituents that have been talking about how offensive (smoke) would be in restaurants,” he said.
City attorney Regan Russell said the proposal is very much a work in progress.
“We’re going to use (a draft) that’s going to be fairly broad,” he said. “The board members can narrow it down from there.”
Anderson said Tupelo’s smoking ordinance is one possible model for New Albany. While it bans smoking in essentially indoor spaces into which the public is invited – stores, restaurants, shops and some offices – Anderson said he would anticipate less restrictive smoke-free zones outdoors near building entrances.
“We want it strict enough, but not too strict,” he said.
Anderson said he thinks a smoking ordinance will be largely supported among both the public in New Albany and his colleagues on the board.
“I’m hoping that it’ll be pretty well received,” he said. “Most smokers are pretty considerate; they’re used to smoking outside or off-premises in a lot of places already. I think I’ll have support from the other board members.”
The New Albany Board of Aldermen will discuss the issue further Monday at 5:30 p.m., upstairs at City Hall. A formal public hearing on the draft ordinance is scheduled for Nov. 1 at 5:30 p.m.
Smoke-Free Air Mississippi is a coalition of the state Department of Health and other advocacy groups. Its website (www.smokefreeairms.com) states that each year some 550 nonsmokers in Mississippi die from exposure to secondhand smoke. It adds, “Separating smokers from nonsmokers or using air filtration and ventilation equipment does not eliminate the health risks.”
The organization’s push for a statewide smoking ban failed in the Mississippi Legislature, but it continues a campaign aimed at passing a similar bill in the 2012 session.