Smoking might be banned soon in public places throughout Columbia County. But in Grovetown and Harlem, officials are saying government should butt out of how businesses are run.
"We talked about it Monday night to get an idea of who's for it and who's against it," Grovetown Mayor Dennis Trudeau said. "The consensus was to let businesses make their own decisions."
On Tuesday, the Columbia County Board of Commissioners will hold its first reading of an ordinance similar to one Richmond County officials are considering for a smoking ban in all public places, including restaurants and bars.
A Columbia County Chamber of Commerce poll of its 550 members found more than 70 percent of those members are in favor of the ordinance, called the Columbia County Smoke Free Air Act of 2004.
Officials in Grovetown and Harlem, however, tend to agree more with a newly organized group that is opposing the ban, called COST, an acronym for Citizens Opposing Socialist Tyranny.
Trudeau said he and the city's council are waiting to see what happens at the first reading of the ordinance at the county's Tuesday night Board of Commission meeting. He said he doesn't anticipate a similar ordinance being proposed inside his city limits.
At a recent city council work session, Harlem Councilman John Thigpen said the topic was on the agenda for discussion. Harlem Mayor Scott Dean and Mayor Pro Tem Robin Root were unable to attend because they were in Scotland on a special trip with Harlem High School's drama troupe.
Thigpen said the other council members in attendance, Tom Blalock and Rudolph Dixon, did not seem to support the ordinance. The city already has one smoke-free restaurant, BG's Deli and Fine Catering. It also has restaurants that allow smoking, including Huddle House and The Harlem House.
Thigpen said everyone knows the health risks of second hand smoke, and people should be responsible for their own health.
"Our point of view is that its a place government shouldn't be," Thigpen said. "I think the business owners should make the choice, not the government. If an owner chooses to run his business (smoke-free), I support that 100 percent. If he chooses to allow smoking in a percentage of business, I support that, too."
"Concerning the smoking ban, my personal opinion is I don't think the government should interfere with private businesses," he said.
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