Augusta Commission panel to reconsider tougher smoking ban

An Augusta Commission committee is ready to get back to work on a proposed smoking ordinance that would ban lighting up in virtually every public space and some outdoor areas.

The Public Services Committee will meet at 10 a.m. Jan. 18 in the commission chamber at the municipal building for a special work session. The proposed ordinance has been on hold since late October, when the committee voted to send it back to general counsel Andrew MacKenzie to add feedback from two public hearings and suggestions from commissioners.

Commissioner Corey Johnson, who heads the committee, wanted to see whether the ordinance could ban smoking in cars where children are present. Mayor Pro Tem Joe Bowles questioned the ban’s inclusion of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes.

Advocates have been pushing for a more comprehensive ban like one that was toughened in Savannah, Ga., in 2010. Augusta is under a statewide law that bans smoking in most public places where children could be present, such as most restaurants, but allows exemptions for bars and restaurants where no one younger than 18 is admitted.

The tougher proposal provoked a passionate response at public hearings, with health advocates saying it is needed to protect workers in those businesses where it is now allowed, and bar and business owners predicting it would hurt them.

Staff Writer Susan McCord contributed to this article.

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