County could lead state in becoming smoke-free

Madison County has the opportunity to become the first county to in the state to go smoke-free.

“We’re targeting Madison County. All of the cities in the county have smoke-free ordinances and those in the unincorporated areas don’t have the same protections,” said Corey Wiggins with Smoke Free Mississippi. “That’s why we’re trying to get a countywide ordinance.”

An ordinance prohibiting smoking in all workplaces and public places was presented to the Board of Supervisors on Monday for them to start studying by the Madison County Business League.

“We want to discuss it with them,” said Jan Collins, the league’s executive director. “We want Madison County to be the first.”

In Mississippi 53 communities have passed smoke-free ordinances.

In December, Canton joined Flora, Madison and Ridgeland, which adopted the smoking bans earlier. In December the supervisors adopted a resolution to eliminate exposure to second hand smoke at work sites and public indoor places.

But, Collins said the proposal before the board now for consideration would follow the lead of the cities’ smoking bans carry penalties for smokers and businesses that fail to comply.

“We want to put a bug in the supervisors’ ear,” said Rochelle Culp, director of the Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition in Madison County. “Madison County is an up-and-coming county and others will follow suit.

The ordinance, which is the same as those in the cities, is designed to protect the health of citizens in unincorporated areas, she said.

“I can’t see Madison County being second to anyone in protecting the health of its citizens,” District 2 Supervisor Ronny Lott said. “We need to seriously consider being the first county to adopt it.”

District 3 Supervisor Gerald Steen was a Ridgeland alderman when the city adopted its ordinance. “I’m in favor of it if it similar to what Ridgeland adopted,” he said.

District 5 Supervisor Paul Griffin said he wants to read the proposed ordinance but he doesn’t anticipate any problems with supporting it.

“We will certainly look at it and consider it,” board president John Bell Crosby of District 1 said.

The proposal calls for prohibiting smoking in enclosed places, including bars, public areas of businesses like banks, laundromats, professional offices and retailers, motels, restaurants, sports arenas like stadiums, gyms and spas and all county owned buildings. Smoking would also be prohibited in all enclosed areas of places of employment, which includes common work areas, meeting rooms, private offices, elevates, hallways, lounges and stairs.

In outdoor areas, smoking would be prohibited within 20 feet of entrances to locations where smoking is banned, outdoor seating of restaurants, sports bleachers or grandstands and outdoor playgrounds.

The proposal calls for a $50 fine for a person smoking in a prohibited area and a $100 fine for the first violation of a business owner. Violating the ordinance would be considered a public nuisance.