Those pushing for smoke-free bars and other public places in Augusta will get a boost from entertainers next week, but the introduction of a proposed ordinance is likely weeks away.
Augusta Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson, who helped shepherd a tougher smoking ordinance last year before the Augusta Commission before it was voted down, said he has no immediate plans to bring it back up.
“We’ve still got a few things we need to deal with,” he said. “I just haven’t had much time to talk with colleagues and see where they were on this thing.”
It could be late September or October before Johnson brings it back up. Augusta is covered by a state law that bans smoking in restaurants but allows it in bars and places that do not admit anyone younger than 18.
The group pushing for what it calls smoke-free workplaces is concentrating on public education. Jennifer Anderson, the chairwoman of BreathEasy Augusta, said the group goes to public events such as First Friday to talk with people about secondhand smoke.
“A lot of people really don’t realize how hazardous secondhand smoke is,” she said. “That’s the big thing that we’re seeing when we go out to the public.”
The group passes out information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about how exposure from as little as 20 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure can affect nonsmokers and longer exposure appears to have larger consequences.
A study of 2,889 “never smokers” published in February in the journal Hypertension, for instance, found that the higher the levels of nicotine byproduct in their blood, the greater the level of hypertension regardless of other risk factors such as body mass index and cholesterol levels.
The previous attempt to ban smoking in bars rankled some owners and is likely to raise opposition again.
Mike Scheetz, a co-owner of The Pub and Grub on Mike Padgett Highway, said he would be opposed to a smoke-free ordinance. He estimated about 25 to 30 percent of his customers smoke.
“I imagine they would probably not want to come here or what they would want to do is get a drink and go outside” to smoke, Scheetz said. That would mean adding an outdoor area, he said.