(It’s about time)
Columbia smoking ban passes
Smokers in Columbia have until early January to puff legally in public.
Early today, the Columbia City Council – in a split decision that centered on the rights of smokers versus the rights of consumers not to breathe secondhand smoke – voted to ban smoking in most public places in the city.
The ban would apply to bars and restaurants as well as other areas served by the public such as nursing homes, open-air or enclosed sports stadiums and bingo halls.
The measure is an amended version of an existing city law that already bans smoking in city-owned buildings and other areas. Proponents say it protects employees in smoky workplaces from harmful secondhand smoke.
The ban will take effect Jan. 9.
Opponents – including three members of the city council – said the measure amounts to an unfair intrusion of local government into the dealings of private business owners.
Council members voted to pass a ban after nearly five hours of impassioned pleas from dozens of residents at a public hearing last night. It includes an exemption for patios where no more than 50 percent of the patio is designated for smoking.
“The impacts on health are significant,” Mayor Darwin Hindman said of secondhand smoke. “It affects a tremendous number of people in a tremendous number of ways. As far as I can see, the only way to eliminate that health concern is to eliminate that secondhand smoke.”