TIFTON -- The Clean Air Ordinances for Tifton and Tift County take effect today, ending smoking in public places.
The nearly identical ordinances ban smoking in areas designated as enclosed public places, including shopping malls, elevators, public restrooms, public transit, theaters, arenas, auditoriums, bowling facilities, pool halls, health care facilities, child care facilities and any other places where the public is invited to gather. Smoking is also banned within 25 feet of the entrance of any public place. Private residences are exempt from the ordinances. Most private businesses and clubs will be unaffected by the ordinances but any establishment can opt to be designated a non-smoking building and be protected by them.
Perhaps most importantly to the average citizen, the ordinances ban smoking in restaurants, and many smokers are unhappy because of it.
"There's going to be some angry customers," said Trisha Lowe, a shift manager at Pizza Hut and also a smoker.
"It just doesn't seem fair at all," she said. "We don't tell them they have to smoke, so why can they tell us we can't smoke?"
Shanna Henderson, a cashier with Wishbone Fried Chicken and also a smoker, believes that ordinances are unfair as well.
"They let people vote on the liquor law, but they didn't let anybody vote on the smoking laws," she said. "They did that themselves."
The ordinances were passed Aug. 9 by both the Tifton City Council and the Tift County Board of Commissioners. The stated reasons for the ordinances are to protect the public health and welfare, to ensure the right of non-smokers to breathe smoke-free air in public places and to recognize that the need to breathe smoke-free air is more important than the desire to smoke.
J.B. Stinchcomb, the owner of Wishbone, has started a petition for those who disagree with the two commission's decisions to pass the ordinances.
"He doesn't like it at all," said Henderson. "He feels like he should be able to smoke in (his restaurant) if he wants to."
Some non-smokers even disagree with the ordinances.
"I don't think the government should have the authority to ban legal substances from local businesses," said Vince Funk, the manager at Chicago's Pizza. "I'm not a smoker, but I believe we're still living in America."
Others feel that the local governments could have allowed some leeway or exceptions to the rules.
"My feeling is, if you had a separate room just to put smokers in, fine," said Charlotte Marchant of Charlotte's restaurant.
Not everyone is complaining about the ordinances, though.
"I'm all for it, even though my husband smokes," said Patty Lupo, a customer at Pizza Hut "I personally don't like to breathe it."
"Nobody really said anything about it," Sonya Johnson, a cashier at Burger King. The fast food restaurant has been posting the ordinance on their doors since the first of the month. "We've had no complaints whatsoever."
"I love it," said Barbara Lance, a hostess at Charlotte's.
The penalties for an individual violating one of the ordinances is $50 for a first offense, and $75 for the second offense. The penalties for businesses in violation will be $100 for a first offense and $200 for a second offense. Subsequent offenses will be determined by the court, either the Municipal Court for city violators or the Magistrate Court for county cases. Each day that a violation occurs will be considered a separate violation.
"Any citizen who desires to can complain," said Glynda Hemby, Tift County Clerk.
She said that the ordinances would be enforced if a citizen brings a complaint against either an individual or business. Tifton Police Department will handle city complaints, and the Tift County Sheriff's Office will respond to complaints outside the city.
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