Smoking Ordinance Debate Continues

Soon Meridian residents will have a chance to voice their opinions on the city's newest ordinance.

When it comes to Meridian's new anti-smoking ordinance, there's no gray area. The council is still clearly divided on this highly controversial issue.

Last week the council voted three to two for the ordinance, which prohibits smoking in public places such as banks, educational and healthcare facilities, transportation facilities, laundromats, reception areas, retail food production and marketing establishments, retail stores, shopping malls, sports arenas, theatres, waiting rooms and restaurants including those with an attached bar.

Councilman Jesse Palmer says if nothing is done about this ordinance it could have some serious economic repercussions.

"People's jobs are going to be affected," says Palmer, "because if their businesses drop off they're going to have to let employees go, so it's far bigger than just my deciding that I would like to see everybody stop."

Meanwhile, Ward 2 Councilwoman Mary Perry says according to a survey on the matter, this will likely not happen!

"Ninety-one percent of the people asked in the survey said 'I will go out and continue to eat,' and some even said 'I will go more!' Nine percent said 'I'll not go,’" says Perry.

Council members against the ban contend that the random survey, which was conducted by the American Cancer Society, was not broad enough. It included 407 responders. Opponents of the ban say this is not enough given the city's population of more than 30,000 people; not only that, but they say the real question now is how far should bans go?

"If some people are allergic to salt, do you ban salt? If they're allergic to ketchup, do you not allow ketchup in a restaurant?” says Councilman George Thomas.

Meanwhile, as Mayor John Robert Smith considers vetoing the ordinance, residents can soon weigh in on the matter. Tuesday a public informational meeting on the issue will be held in City Council chambers at the Meridian Police Department. The meeting will begin at 9 a.m.