Public gives input on proposed smoking ordinance

By Christy Hutchings - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - It's a debate causing outrage for some, and cheers from others. The issue is smoking in Savannah; and the question is should it be allowed inside bars?

On Wednesday night, the city council hosted a town hall meeting to hear from people on both sides of the issue. The line of people wanting to address council was one of the longest lines in quite some time. Doctors, representatives from Healthy Savannah and citizens all had something to say.

Barbara Simpson of Savannah told the council: "Today I got a shot in each arm because I'm allergic to cigarette smoke. Having a space at a door where I can get in helps me breathe."

Another woman said: "When the health of an organization or community improves, the wealth of it improves."

A local doctor agreed with both women. "I think it's a shame that we have a situation where people who work in an environment where smoking is allowed don't have that choice; they're exposed to the smoke."

While many were in support of the ordinance, others weren't.

"With everything going on in the city of Savannah, you all have a lot more to deal with than smokers in private businesses," said a Savannah man.

Steve Hardy, who works at a local tobacco shop, said: "What happens if you have groups of 30 or 40 people and somebody accidently steps off the sidewalk and is hit by an automobile."

Others said the council was taking away people's rights. "When people ask me where I live, I don't just say Savannah. I say I live in the last remnant of America, Savannah, Ga. Where else can we carry a 16-ounce beer and sit in a bar and have a cigarette -- [there's] very few places left. I am not saying everybody's got to do it, but please don't take it away from me."

City council has a lot to consider. It is expected to make a decision soon because Mayor Otis Johnson wants this ordinance in effect by Sept. 1.

Copyright 2010 WTOC. All rights reserved.