SHEFFIELD — Councilman Steve Stanley said he is still debating whether or not to offer a scaled down version of the comprehensive smoking ordinance that was defeated by a 4-2 vote in December.
The ordinance would have prohibited smoking in many public places and private businesses in the city, which caused some council members and business owners to view it as a form of government intrusion.
“I’m probably not going to initiate any proposals based on the discussion we’ve had and the responses I’ve gotten from at least three of the four council members,” Stanley said. “The primary objection of those who voted against it felt it was an inappropriate intrusion into private business.”
Council members heard arguments from both sides of the ordinance.
On one hand, advocates for the ordinances said, it was an effort to create a healthier environment for the public and employees, and a step toward making Sheffield look like a health-conscious city.
On the other hand, business owners, especially those in the bar and restaurant industry, said prohibiting smoking could put them out of business.
“I may give it a little time to rest,” Stanley said. He added that passing an ordinance that did not include restrictions on businesses would be meaningless.
“When I introduced the ordinance we thought we had four votes in favor of it,” Stanley said.
Mayor Ian Sanford, who voted against the ordinance, said the city already prevents smoking on its own property. As far as distance requirements for smoking outside businesses or public buildings, Sanford said, smokers should not congregate directly outside the doors of public buildings, but they should not “have to go a half-mile away” to smoke.
“I think the major thing was infringing on businesses,” Sanford said. “I appreciate the effort and what they’re trying to do.”
Sanford said he thinks the council might take another look at the ordinance, but there isn’t any rush.
“It would be a courtesy to take another look at it,” the mayor said.
Stanley said the council can take action to regulate smoking in other areas controlled by the city or its Park and Recreation Department. Smoking already is prohibited on the campuses of Sheffield schools and property owned by the board of education.
“We could pass an ordinance restricting smoking on playgrounds and parks in the city,” Stanley said. “I sense there’s not even a lot of support for that even.”
Stanley said he is in favor of and would support other Shoals cities that might want to enact comprehensive smoking ordinances. Florence has a smoking ordinance, but restaurants and bars have the option of allowing smoking or not. They cannot, however, offer a smoking section in an otherwise non-smoking restaurant.
The ordinance was presented during the Dec. 17 council meeting and was defeated by a 4-2 vote.
Council members Mary Stevens, Steve Nix and Gary Scales voted against the ordinance.
“I thought long and hard about it,” Nix said. “At this point I hope we made the right decision.”
Scales said he has not considered any compromises. He said any offers of a compromise would likely come from Stanley, since he is the council member who introduced the ordinance.
The ordinance had the support of the Alabama Department of Public Health, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society.
“Due to the overwhelming support from the Sheffield community, the Partnership for a Tobacco-Free Shoals will continue to educate and inform the public about the health risks involved in exposure to secondhand and third hand smoke,” said Melanie Dickens, Tobacco Prevention & Control Coordinator for Public Health Area 1, Alabama Department of Public Health.
Ashley Lyerly, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association, said she is encouraged by the continued interest in a smoke free air ordinance for the city of Sheffield, but said compromise leaves employees and resident unprotected.
“It is imperative that smoke-free ordinances include protections for all indoor workplaces and public places to protect employees, residents, and visitors from exposure to secondhand smoke,” Lyerly said.
“There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and an employee should not have to choose between their paycheck and their health. The American Lung Association will continue to support local advocates in the fight for improving lung health and preventing lung disease in the city of Sheffield.
Russ Corey can be reached at 256-740-5738 or russ.corey@TimesDaily.com.