COLUMBIA — Hickman High School students have a three-day weekend, but instead of spending their Thursday nights out, about 135 students crammed into the high school’s commons area for a Speak Your Mind forum about the city’s year-old smoking ban.
Students had the opportunity to ask questions and offer their comments to a four-member panel, which included City Council members Chris Janku and Almeta Crayton, Dean Anderson of the Boone County Coalition for Tobacco Concerns and Michael McClung, co-owner of Tonic, Déjà Vu and Quinton’s.
Scott McCumber, a senior at Hickman and member of the Speak Your Mind steering committee, said the issue hits close to home, which makes it an appealing topic for students to discuss.
“A lot of these issues we talk about happen halfway across the world,” McCumber said. “This is an issue that is completely relevant and affects us everyday.”
The smoking ordinance that took effect Jan. 9 prohibits smoking in enclosed public places and enclosed workplaces in Columbia.
The last Speak Your Mind forum focused on aging in America, which proved to be an informative topic with little debate, McCumber said. This time, however, with Crayton and McClung representing the “con” side of the argument and Janku and Anderson speaking in favor of the ban, there was plenty of room for dialogue.
Anderson said his support for the ban is rooted in his work with organizations that work to promote awareness of the results of secondhand smoke.
“We believe in protecting people’s health,” Anderson said. “We all deserve good health.”
Crayton said she agrees that people to be in a healthy, clean environment, but also said smoking, and its effects, are a choice.
“If I give away my right to choose how to live my life, what’s next,” Crayton asked. “Let me have a choice.”
Maria Carlos, a junior at Hickman, said that she came to the forum because of her own personal experience with the city’s smoking ban.
“My parents are business owners and it’s definitely had an effect on their business,” Carlos said. “I understand that the city wants to impose regulations to protect the public, but the government should have boundaries they can’t cross to violate the rights of those whom they are governing.”