A proposed smoking ordinance is headed to a public hearing March 7 after the Columbia Board of Health gave it the thumbs up at its Tuesday night meeting.
The ordinance would ban indoor smoking sections in restaurants, bars, bowling alleys and other indoor public places. Seating areas of stadiums, arenas and athletic fields would be added to the list of places where smoking is prohibited. Additionally, smoking would be permitted in a private office only if the office has a ventilation system separate from nonsmoking offices and is not visited by nonsmokers or the public.
The board moved to change only one item in the draft proposed in late 2005, at the request of board member Illalyn Irwin. In the new draft, bars will be added to the list of commercial establishments where smoking is prohibited, in addition to being struck from the list of exempted businesses. This change was made to clarify the language of the ordinance, said board chairman Michael Szewczyk, a doctor at Boone Hospital Center.
Although the board members stand behind the new draft, board member and veterinarian Tom Rose said he has reservations. While he supports the ban and is “thoroughly convinced of the dangers of secondhand smoke,” he is concerned that the ban could economically disadvantage some businesses, such as restaurants with no outdoor dining areas.
“I’m very eager to hear what the public has to say about this,” Rose said.
Matthew Jenne, a co-owner of Addison’s and Sophia’s restaurants, supports the ban but would like the ordinance to include a provision allowing smoking in bars at night.
“It goes with the atmosphere,” he said. “People who drink at the bar generally want to smoke, too.”
Rose’s concerns were echoed by Boone Liberty Coalition spokesman John Dupuy. He was the primary owner of Ninth Street Deli for the past few years until recently selling most of the shares. He banned smoking inside the deli within the first month he owned it but permitted customers to smoke on the outdoor patio.
“We’re lucky enough to have patio space, but that’s something everyone can’t have,” Dupuy said.
Dupuy said he and his organization do not support the ban because it interferes with each business’s right to make its own choices.
“The decision to go smoking or nonsmoking is part and parcel to the entertainment experience that restaurant is offering,” he said.
While he said that he understands that smoking is a health risk and thinks the Board of Health is well-intentioned, “people should have the right to make a bad choice.”
The public is invited to offer their opinions at the 6 p.m. March 7 hearing, with the location to be determined later. March 23 has been selected as an alternate date.