By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
SALTILLO – Residents won’t notice a difference in smoking laws anytime soon, but many have opinions on the possibility.
Many residents attended a Tuesday public hearing and voiced opinions for and against a citywide smoking ban.
“We prefer (smoking restaurants) because after our meal we can relax, have a cigarette and socialize with those at our table,” said Richard Nielson of Saltillo. “We enjoy that privilege of being able to smoke.”
Nielson’s wife, Nancy Nielson, noted most of Los Compadres’ business takes place in the smoking and bar area of the restaurant.
Jonathan Pharr, a Saltillo resident and self-proclaimed Libertarian, said anyone’s right to smoke ends at his nose.
“If you are, as a board, looking to the future of Saltillo, this is about the right to clean air. It has nothing to do with the right to smoke,” he said.
James Brand, a cancer survivor and Saltillo resident, said he is a big proponent of oncology prevention.
“This is one of the easiest ways to help with health and our health care system,” he said. “If you want to smoke, that’s fine, but in a public setting (you) shouldn’t have the choice to decrease the health quality of myself and my kids.”
Many residents stood up to say they were more concerned with the local government infringing on their rights than they were with the issue of smoking.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit ruled in September 2012, in Arthur Gallagher v. City of Clayton, that the right to smoke in public “… does not fall within the ‘liberty’ that is specially protected by the Due Process Clause.”
The board tabled the discussion of any action on a smoking ban until its next meeting, March 19. Alderwoman Jewell Webb requested they also discuss adding a nonbinding referendum to the upcoming general election ballot on the issue. The referendum could gauge the opinion of all Saltillo voters.