Public Speaks Out on Smoking Ban

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A public hearing drew the attention of citizens wishing to comment on Meridian's Smoke Free Air Act, an ordinance recently adopted to mandate that all public places in the city be no smoking areas.

Forty people signed up to speak with a time limit of five minutes per speaker. When the two-hour meeting ended, 21 had opposed the ordinance and 19 had endorsed it.

"If you're going to legislate to keep us from harming ourselves, then you'd better outlaw football because those kids are out there breaking their bones on a daily basis," said retiree Bill Baldwin. "Mr. Mayor, please veto this legislation."

"What bothers me is the city council. When people go out here, they open a business. You try to tell them how to run their business," said Harvey Speed.

"If we go back now, you veto this, the city of Meridian will be taking a step backwards. We can be part of the lead crusade in this. We can protect our children. I think the facts are there," said Jonathan Wells, as he stood with his wife, Jan, and their children.

The Wells’ said their children have asthma and second hand smoke is harmful to them.

"I don't think this is a rights issue. Everyone has a choice to decide whether they want to smoke or not, but it is a health issue," Jan Wells said.

That defined the meeting. Those opposed said it was a rights or economic issue. Those in favor called it a health issue.

The ordinance bans smoking in bars, restaurants, bingo halls, convention facilities, retail stores and most other places of public gatherings.

Mayor John Robert Smith said he will announce his decision whether or not to veto the ordinance in the near future. The measure passed three to two. If the mayor vetoes it, it would take at least four votes to override.

Two councilmen who opposed passage of the ordinance, Dr. George Thomas and Jesse Palmer, have said they would not vote to override the mayor on this issue.