No butts about it

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Selma Times-journal

New York City does it. So does Los Angeles. It’s even done as far way as Honolulu and Anchorage, Alaska.

Beginning this October, the City of Selma will be included among their ranks.

What do they have in common?

All of these cities ban tobacco use in public buildings, places of employment and

restaurants.

In fact, more than 1800 U.S. municipalities have some sort of clean indoor air law, according to the American Cancer Society.

Ten states &045; including Connecticut, Maine, and Florida &045; have laws that prohibit smoking in work places or restaurants.

Tuck says Selma’s smoking ordinance, passed by the city council on May 9, is more lenient than other municipal ordinances found across the state and country because it gives restaurant owners a choice.

According to the ordinance, restaurant owners must choose to have an all smoking or all non-smoking establishment. The option of having a divided section within the restaurant will no longer be allowed.

City Attorney Jimmy Nunn said letters have been sent to all area restaurants asking them to make their declaration to City of Selma Finance Department no later than Aug. 15.

By Sept. 1, Nunn said, restaurants must have signs posted stating whether it is a smoking or non-smoking establishment.

When the ordinance officially goes into effect Oct. 1, there will be an across-the-board ban on tobacco use in government buildings, health care facilities, sports arenas and most businesses.

Some exceptions, according to the ordinance, include private residences and vehicles, private and semi-private rooms in nursing homes, social clubs and hotels.

Nunn said the Selma ordinance is modeled after the one currently in effect in Prattville. The City of Montgomery also has a similar ordinance, Nunn said.

The city’s code enforcement officer, Daryl Moore, will be responsible ensuring the new law is being followed.

A person caught smoking where it is prohibited could receive a $50 to $200 fine.

Niko Phillips, the Tobacco Prevention and Control Coordinator for the Dallas County Department of Public Health, said the city’s ordinance is the result of two years of work by group called the Selma/Dallas County Smoke Free Coalition.

Phillips, a Coalition member, said the group lobbied the previous and current city council for the ordinance.

A few local restaurant and bar owners who attended the forums voiced concerns that the ordinance would hurt their businesses.

Studies in states such as Texas, California, Colorado and New York, however, have shown that smoke-free policies do not result in loss of revenue for restaurants, according to the American Cancer Society.

In fact, a 1993 National Restaurant Association survey indicated that half of all Americans choose smoke-free restaurants over ones that allow smoking.

Tuck added that the smoking ordinance is about promoting clean air, not telling people they can’t smoke in public.

Tuck said waiters and waitresses are exposed to high levels of secondhand smoke, which could affect their health.

Restaurants that prohibit smoking may even see an increase in customers.