Advocates for a tougher smoking ordinance in Augusta showed up at Augusta Commission committee meetings Monday, but its sponsor said they were two weeks early.
Members of the BreathEasy Augusta coalition thought a tougher ordinance would be proposed Monday, but Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson, who will sponsor it, said it will actually be in the second round of committee meetings in October, which would start Oct. 28.
The process will include a public hearing for people to ask questions and voice concerns, Johnson said. Most of the commission members know it is coming and “they understand how important it is,” Johnson said, especially because Augusta has an opportunity to become “the medical mecca of the South.”
Augusta is covered by a state law that prohibits smoking in restaurants and places that admit anyone under age 18. The ordinance proposed last year would have added bars and most other public places to that, but the commission voted it down.
In the meantime, advocates are busy trying to frame the debate in advance.
“We’ve heard a lot of people talking about this as a smoking ban, and that’s not what this is,” said Kirk Miller, the Georgia grassroots manager for American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “This is not a ban on smoking. This is not an attempt to vilify smokers. What we’re looking to do is ask the people who smoke that they take it outside. This is really about protecting workers.”
Part of that is educating the public about secondhand smoke, said Jennifer Anderson, the chairwoman of the coalition. The group hands out materials that list the toxic substances in that smoke, which it says includes hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde and arsenic.
“If folks were aware of what the hazards were, they would be a little bit more vocal about secondhand smoke,” Anderson said.