A tougher smoking ban for Augusta is headed back to committee, but advocates for the ordinance say it is not a setback. The Augusta Commission voted Tuesday night to send a revised smoking ordinance back to the Public Service Committee at the request of Commissioner Corey Johnson.
“They just want to do a little tweaking and look at the language of the bill,” said Sadie Stockton, the chronic-disease prevention program manager of the East Central Health District. “That’s just the legal process at work.”
Augusta general counsel Andrew MacKenzie had sent out a revised ordinance with suggested changes from the last committee meeting before Tuesday.
“All of the commissioners didn’t get a chance to look at it,” said Eric Bailey, Georgia’s advocacy manager for the American Cancer Society.
Augusta is currently under a statewide law that bans smoking in most public places where children could be present, such as most restaurants, but allows it in other public places, such as bars and restaurants that don’t admit anyone younger than 18. Advocates have argued that a tougher ordinance is necessary to protect workers in those places from secondhand smoke.
Augusta is not the only city in Georgia grappling with the issue. In Macon, a tougher ordinance is “just sort of sitting there” awaiting action, Bailey said, and a push in DeKalb County will not see action any time soon.
Savannah’s stronger ordinance went into effect last year, and Decatur, Athens-Clarke County and Columbia County have enacted tougher smoking standards for public places, he said.