I wish to express my strongest opposition to the proposed Richmond and Columbia County proposed ban on smoking ordinances. Please allow me to explain.
Columbia County already has a smoking ban, Section 58.8, titled: "Smoking in county buildings and vehicles prohibited." Furthermore, individuals may not smoke in any medical facility, church, day-care, shopping center, grocery store, library or on public transportation.
Recently The Augusta Chronicle and The Columbia County News-Times conducted an on-line electronic poll to determine public support on a smoking ban ordinance; 714 voted in the poll, with 423 replying Yes, and 291 voted No. The Health Department was elated and claimed that 60 percent supported the ban and, 40 percent did not.
On the other hand The News-Times reported that Mike Pirtle of Augusta has 5,000 signatures from individuals who oppose a smoking ban in public places. Whom do we believe -- 423 for the ban or 5,000-plus individuals who are against a smoking ban?
The Georgia General Assembly establish House Bill 1670, titled "Smoking in public places; prohibitions; certain exceptions." This bill unfortunately never passed the full assembly and never became a public law. This proposed law had exceptions which the counties do not.
As an example, HB 1670, Section 1(c) provided exceptions to "individual owners or operators of retail establishments, food service establishments as that term is defined in Code Section 26-2-370, or bars shall have the right to determine their own policies on the use of tobacco products within such establishments." ...
The American anti-smoking crusade has been very successful. There are now about half as many ex-smokers in America as there are smokers. But even after 30 years of being urged to kick the habit, about a quarter of the population still chooses to smoke.
America was built on a live-and-let-live attitude. We usually let people do what they want to even if they're hurting themselves, as long as they're not hurting anyone else. We often step in if an unwilling bystander is being harmed. This, in turn, leaves the door open for the secondhand smoke attack on smokers.
If secondhand smoke really is as dangerous as the government, political organizations and charities claim, efforts to prevent it and contain it are justified. But is it? The government and the County Commission should stay out of how private businesses run their organizations. It's rather intrusive.
Actually that's putting it far too mildly. It is fascism, pure and simple. ... One component of fascism is government control over private enterprise. The illusion of property rights are preserved but the actual owners are completely subservient to the state and county's interest.
A pliable solution to this untenable situation is for the Health Department to encourage restaurants and hospitality establishments to post appropriate signs indicating to their customers that smoking is or is not permitted in the facility. In addition, the Health Department should encourage the owner/operator to install High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) purifiers. ...
America is the home of the free. As each county commissioner ponders this unneeded ordinance, let us remember those who sacrificed their lives so that we many continue to enjoy our First Amendment rights.
David G. Edmiston Sr.,
MSG USAF Retired
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