Some Columbia city leaders pushing for smoking ban - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Some Columbia city leaders pushing for smoking ban

(Columbia) September 27, 2006 - Some Columbia city leaders are pushing for a ban on smoking in all public buildings, including bars and restaurants. That proposal was the focus of a public hearing City Council held Wednesday.

Willie Durkin has spent more than two decades running bars. He knows what customers want. And he says, when they come to the Five Points bar that bears his name, they want to smoke. "I can understand the restaurant issue. Cigarettes and food don't necessarily go together. But alcohol and cigarettes truly do."

Wednesday Durkin took that argument to City Council members. "Do we close down the beaches, golf courses and tanning salons because skin cancer's on the rise? Do we ban chicken wings because heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in South Carolina?"

One speaker suggested Columbia is sort of like Russia for even considering a smoking ban.

Jeff Helsley attended the meeting. He said, "I'm here for freedom of choice. I think, it's not good for health, but people should have the choice, I think. I don't like loud music, I don't frequent the bars that play loud music, but I wish them well, you know? I don't think there should be a law banning loud music. The same goes for smoking. I think people should have the choice."

WIS also spoke with Columbia mayor Bob Coble, who is in favor of the ban. "Second-hand smoke is harmful under any circumstances and the only way to prevent second-hand smoke is really to prevent smoking in enclosed buildings where the public is going to breath it. And I think that's just the bottom line."

Most speakers said it is now time for the city of Columbia and bars and restaurants in Five Points to clear the air. Dr. Oscar Lovelace spoke on the issue, "As a small town family physician, I have first hand experience in the fact that second hand smoke does indeed cause heart disease, lung disease, exacerbation of asthma in children, ear infections and even sudden infant death syndrome."

Lisa Turner of the American Cancer Society also gave her thoughts on the proposal, "Smoke free ordinances have been good for business. They have been good for people who work in those businesses. And they have been good for the people who patronize those businesses."

The council did not vote this time, and might not vote after a follow-up hearing next Wednesday.

With both sides on the issue far apart, some council members are looking for compromise. One possible solution is a ban on smoking in restaurants and other places open to children, leaving bar patrons free to do what they often do.

Reported by Jack Kuenzie

Updated 12:25pm by Chantelle Janelle

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