SHEFFIELD — Supporters of a proposed ordinance that would prohibit smoking in most public places, including restaurants and bars, said their intent is to protect the public from second-hand smoke.
Mayor Ian Sanford said he appreciates the efforts of the supporters, which include the Alabama Department of Public Health, the American Heart Association and American Lung Association, but he sees the ordinance as a form of government intrusion.
“I may be the only one who feels like that,” Sanford said. “We are already compatible with 75-80 percent of that ordinance.”
The 12-page ordinance introduced by Councilman Steve Stanley states that its purpose is to “protect the health and welfare of the public by prohibiting smoking in public places and places of employment, and to recognize that the need to breathe smoke-free air takes priority over the desire to smoke.”
On Monday, the Sheffield City Council will hold a public hearing to allow the public to express their opinions on the proposed ordinance. The hearing will take place during the council meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.
The ordinance would prohibit smoking in essentially all enclosed public places and also place restrictions on smoking in outdoor public areas.
The ordinance would prohibit smoking in bars, convention facilities, public and private educational facilities, health care facilities, hotels and motels, polling places, private clubs, restaurants, retail stores, government offices, sports arenas, both indoor and outdoor, theaters, banks, laundromats and professional offices.
The ordinance also would prohibit smoking within 50 feet of entrances and exits, operable windows and ventilation systems of any public building or place of employment or within 50 feet of outdoor seating and serving areas of restaurants and bars, all outdoor sports arenas and amphitheaters and within 50 feet of bleachers and grandstands used for sporting events.
It would prohibit smoking in outdoor service lines; in or within 50 feet or outdoor playgrounds; within 50 feet of performance space, spectator space and vendors or closed off street events; and on all property owned by the city of Sheffield, Sheffield Board of Education and Sheffield Parks and Recreation Board.
Councilman Gary Scales said he does not smoke and would rather not be in an enclosed place where people are smoking.
“I definitely see both sides of the issue,” Scales said. “I do believe that if a person has a business, a restaurant or whatever, that it should be their right to allow (smoking) if they want it. It’s another form of government intrusion to tell a business owner he can’t have smoking in a privately owned business.”
Sanford said some of the provisions might be difficult to enforce. The mayor said he would be willing to compromise and find some middle ground.
“If we voted on it right now, I think I’d vote for it,” Councilman Ronnie Wicks said.
Wicks said his mother was a smoker who died at age 60 from emphysema.
“I’m just thinking about the health of kids and non-smokers and workers,” Wicks said. “They have a right to go into a public place and eat and not have to breath smoke in there.”
Wicks said there are places he will not go because they allow smoking.
“I can kind of see the other side,” he said. “We don’t want to run businesses out of Sheffield.”
Ashley Lyerly, director of advocacy for the American Lung Association in Alabama, is encouraging the City Council to pass the ordinance.
“Second-hand smoke is a serious public health problem, and there is no safe level of exposure to second-hand smoke,” Lyerly said. “Implementing smoke-free policies is the only effective way to eliminate exposure to second-hand smoke and effectively protect the health of the public and employees in Sheffield.
“The city can join the movement to improve lung health, reduce lung disease, and reduce the number of lives lost each year due to second-hand smoke by passing a strong, comprehensive ordinance.”
The American Cancer Society also supports the ordinance, according to Ginny Campbell, the American Cancer Society’s cancer action network government relations director for Alabama.
“Research shows exposure to second-hand smoke increases a worker’s risk of lung cancer, heart disease and other illnesses,” Campbell said. “Research also shows that smoke-free policies provide safer and cleaner work environments for all workers, free from the risk of exposure to cancer-causing agents and heart-damaging tobacco smoke.”
Campbell said the overall health and economic well-being of the community improves as well through the reduction of smoking-related diseases.
“No one should ever have to choose between their health and a paycheck,” Campbell said. “Every worker in Sheffield deserves to breathe smoke-free air.”
Wicks said he did not know if the council would vote on the ordinance Monday or absorb what they hear during the hearing and vote on it during the first meeting in December.
Russ Corey can be reached at 256-740-5738 or russ.corey@TimesDaily.com.