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Smoke Free, still up in the air Print E-mail

Another in a series of meetings of the Bamberg Smoke Free City Committee was held at the Bamberg Civic Center. The purpose of the public meeting was to discuss the possibility of Bamberg becoming a Smoke Free City and to receive input from the public.

After viewing film on the dangers of secondhand smoke, Diane Wilson, Action Network, Executive Director, addressed those in attendance at the meeting by saying “ that 26-27 percent of the population of South Carolina live in communities that are smoke free. “The reaction has been gratifying,” Wilson said.

In response to Wilson’s comment that smoking wouldn’t be banned on the outside of public buildings, Elizabeth Moody said, “you say take it outside, what does it do to the outside?” “If we go smoke free, can we go drug free? We’re putting another ordinance on the books, we’re going to work our police to death, most places have signs up about smoking, I believe if a person has a business they should have a right to say what goes on inside their business,” Moody said.

Diane Wilson stated that overworking the police hasn’t been an issue, adding that “any business where the public is involved the employees should be safe.”

Dr. Michael C. Watson, a strong proponent of banning smoking in public places asked,” if anybody here feels like smoking isn’t harmful?” Dr. Watson went on to say that the issue that comes up is freedom. “If a business owner saw a customer come in a business with a canister of gas what would he do? The freedom of your fist stops at the tip of my noise, you’re not free to harm other people,” Watson said.

Melissa Beard stated “I’m not a smoker, but it’s not peoples business to tell them what to do. It’s a choice, people shouldn’t tell my mother, who owns a business what to do,” Beard said adding that “what we need to be talking about is obesity, smoking isn’t the number one health problem.”

Bill Heneger of Bamberg, wanted to know where was the fairness? “Is this supposed to be a bias or unbiased forum? It’s not because we had to look at a film on smoking, where is the fairness here? You have a choice of patronizing a business or not, it’s just an attempt of the liberals to shove their point of view on everybody else,” Heneger said.

Joey Hightower stated that it was an employee’s choice of where they wanted to work. “If your education level doesn’t allow you to work somewhere else, that’s the employee’s fault,” Hightower said.

Betty Hightower a restaurant owner in Bamberg stated that she didn’t make people start smoking. “I do own a restaurant where people smoke, I don’t drag them off the street, I don’t teach them to smoke, I don’t ask anybody to come in and smoke, I know you can tell me not to smoke here, but my business is a private business,” Hightower said.

Diane Heneger of Bamberg also reiterated that it was a matter of choice. “I don’t smoke, but people have a right to do what they want to do. It is a matter of choice. In America you have the right to do what you want to do. People will get cancer from other things, they will make choices, telling people what they can and can’t do is not right. Soon you will be telling people what they can do in their own homes,” Heneger said.

Bamberg City Councilmember Janeth Walker, Chairperson of the Smoke Free Committee, stated that she wanted to remain neutral in the discussion, but had a question from a friend. “How would you compare the fumes of second hand smoke to the fumes that come from cars and automobiles?” Walker asked. “They have the same toxins,” Wilson said.

Betty Hightower, owner of Betty’s Quick Stop in Bamberg and strongly against the proposed ban against stressed that it was a matter of personal freedom. “You allow me to pay taxes and a light bill each month, but yet you won’t allow me to let who ever I want in there or do what I want to do,” Hightower said. “Five hundred dollars ($500) might not be much to ya’ll but it’s $6,000 if you put it on a yearly term and $1,000 for taxes, so that’s $7,000,” Hightower said, adding “I’m going to tell you now, I’m definitely not going to stay open if ya’ll pass a no smoking ban, because I don’t feel like you should be able to tell me what to do in my own place,” Hightower said.

A meeting of The Bamberg Smoke Free City Committee will be on Monday, May 4 at 9 a.m. at City Hall.

 
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