Alana George, Campus Carrier Asst. Arts & Living Editor
Nancy Belle Hansford, Editor
Michaela Lumpert, Campus Carrier News Editor
Rome City Commission proposed a new ordinance that would prohibit smoking in any public properties on Broad Street and along the side streets.
Many business owners and employees worry that the proposed ordinance would create implications for themselves and their employees, as well as issues with enforceability.
This ban would apply to both smoking and vaping on Broad Street, according to the Rome News-Tribune. However, the ban would allow for smoking on the backsides of Broad Street buildings, on East 1st St. and Tribune Street. The ban would also offer free smoking cessation classes and replacement therapy for employees in the area who smoke.
Prior ordinances make compromise nearly impossible. The Rome News-Tribune story says smoking is prohibited within 25 feet of a public entrance to a building that is designated as smoke-free, which means employees who step out on the sidewalk at the rear of Broad Street buildings are violating the law.
The smoking ban is an ongoing debate with advocates on both sides. The employers on Broad Street are caught in the crossfire.
Wayne Mullinax, the owner of Jefferson’s, said that around 70 percent of his employees smoke, and he is a smoker, as well. He already has restrictions in his restaurant for customers and employees; he does not allow his outside customers to smoke, and his employees who smoke have a designated place to go.
“If my staff listens to me and does what they’re supposed to do, they are supposed to go to the back bench off of the sidewalk to smoke,” Mullinax said.
Mullinax does not believe the smoking cessation classes being proposed by the ban will be effective.
“I don’t think there’s a class that can make you quit smoking,” Mullinax said. “I think it’s all in what you want to do and your willpower to quit smoking.”
Mullinax is also curious why the commission only wants to ban smoking on Broad Street and not elsewhere in the city.
“How can you utilize a certain area of Rome, Georgia, to ban smoking instead of the whole city?” Mullinax asked. “If you’re going to do it, you need to do it everywhere.”
Steven McDowell, owner of the Old Havana Cigar Bar, was part of the original discussion group with the city legislature and he, too, questions the effectiveness of the new ban.
While McDowell’s entire business is centered around smoking, he has other reasons for not supporting the ban. He believes that cigars are not as addictive as cigarettes and those two cannot be put in the same category of enforcement.
“I don’t understand how the city or police force can punish people for doing something lawful,” McDowell says.
McDowell primarily sees the debate as an issue of litter and enforcement. He argues that the problem would go away if smokers would properly dispose of their cigarette butts and the police would correctly enforce the current outdoor smoking regulations and the litter laws.
According to the Rome News-Tribune, the Rome City Commission met in December to vote on whether the smoking ban would go into effect. After further consideration, the commission decided to push the vote back until the next meeting and research more into the ordinance before making a decision.
Due to fear of losing customers and employees, Rome retailers and owners continue their pushback of the ordinance. City officials hope that a vote will occur at the Feb. 11 City Commission meeting.