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Health advocates seek stronger ordinance

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 9:42 PM
Last updated 9:46 PM
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Advocates for a smokefree workplace in Augusta are taking their case to the pulpit, and the people, before pushing for a stronger smoking ordinance next month, with hopes it will fare better than the last two attempts.

Healthy Augusta steering committee member the Rev. Jeff Flowers is sending out a letter this week to fellow clergy urging them to speak out this Sunday or the following Sunday about the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke and the need for stronger protections for workers.

“We’re just asking them, if it feels right to them, that they might mention it this weekend and, if not, maybe next weekend,” he said. “Or maybe they could put something in a congregational bulletin, a newsletter, if they feel like they support the idea of trying to limit secondhand smoke.”

The letter will include information on the dangers of secondhand smoke, Flowers said. The fact that it is Easter this weekend for most Christians makes it an opportune time to ask, he said.

“We hope that some will do it this Sunday, since it will be a very busy Sunday,” Flowers said.

In 2005, Georgia adopted a statewide ban on smoking except for establishments where no one younger than 18 is admitted, which left it open for many bars. The Augusta Commission has voted down an ordinance to extend that to all workplaces, including bars, each of the last two years, with the last attempt failing about six months ago. But advocates say they hope a renewed local effort by Healthy Augusta, with the aid of those willing congregations, will make the difference this time around.

“What we hope is that the voice of the community is going to be included,” said Dr. Selina Smith, the director of the Institute of Public and Preventive Health at GRU and a facilitator of Healthy Augusta. The new effort is trying to clear up some misconceptions about the previous push, she said.

“What I was told was that many folks did not feel that this was a local issue,” Smith said. “We’re trying to make sure that our legislators realize that this is very local, that secondhand smoke affects the people that vote.”

The perception that it was a push by outside groups to get the ordinance passed hurt the efforts, said Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson, who has sponsored the effort the last two years. That should not be an issue this time, he said.

“All in all, I think that is going to be the difference-maker in this one, that it is a local organization who is promoting this, who is pushing this, who is advocating for it,” Johnson said.

Another misconception was the ordinance was an attempt to ban smoking, which it is not, Flowers said.

“It’s not asking anyone to quit smoking,” he said. “It is just saying if you are going to smoke, if you can move outside of the workplace, that protects the air for the workers.”

The ordinance has faced staunch opposition from commission members who view it as an infringement on the rights of business owners to choose whether to allow smoking. Smith said it is also a public health issue and the two can coexist.

“Is there a way we can save lives and preserve the business owner’s right to make money? I think there is a way to do it,” she said. “I think simply by removing the smoke, not getting rid of smokers, not being anti-smoking, just saying, ‘Can you step away from this enclosed area for just a moment to smoke your cigarettes?’ ”

Johnson said he is planning to bring it up for discussion at the May 6 meeting and hopes he can flip a couple of the six commissioners who voted it down last time without much discussion.

“I just think people needed more dialogue, more time to digest what it really mean(s),” he said.

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Little Lamb
49085
Points
Little Lamb 04/15/14 - 09:19 pm
2
3
Tax Exemptions

If these "reverends" use their worship services to advocate for governmental laws, then I hope the IRS removes their tax exemptions.

These reverends can talk about the evils of smoking Sunday after Sunday, and there is no restriction for that. But if they advocate for laws prohibiting smoking, then they have crossed the separation of church-state line.

Laws prohibiting a non-violent activity are coercive, and thus take away liberty for small business owners who wish to allow their workers and customers to smoke. If anyone in the public doesn't like the smell of tobacco smoke (and I am one who really does not like tobacco smoke) then we can avoid patronizing those businesses.

Call your commissioner and tell him/her to stand fast against this invasion of liberty. Coercion is not a pretty thing.

corgimom
38463
Points
corgimom 04/15/14 - 11:48 pm
1
1
Hey, ministers are well-known

Hey, ministers are well-known for telling their congregations about the evils of drinking, and to support the dry laws.

Curtis Baptist Church comes to mind, for one.

oldredneckman96
5115
Points
oldredneckman96 04/16/14 - 12:11 am
1
0
Sucking tobacco
Unpublished

Ban smoking in public. Why allow anyone to poison anyone else? Smoking, vaping, chewing, dipping any way it can be used is toxic to humans, remove this poison from public for all the same reasons we ban defecating or urinating in public. Any business that is open to the public is a public place. End of story.

oldredneckman96
5115
Points
oldredneckman96 04/16/14 - 12:13 am
1
0
O and by the way,
Unpublished

Talking about the problems of tobacco is a part of religious teaching.

SRD
472
Points
SRD 04/16/14 - 05:02 am
3
3
Easter Sunday and preaching about smoking

This is ridiculous! Easter Sunday is not the time to preach about smoking and certainly not in the work place. Easter Sunday is the time to talk about our Lord Jesus Christ and his resurrection! The pulpit is not the place to engage in political activities involved in the workplace and should not be a place to help move a law and agenda for those who want to govern every part of our lives and business.

corgimom
38463
Points
corgimom 04/16/14 - 09:09 am
1
0
Many churches feel that God

Many churches feel that God gave us our bodies and they are holy temples of God, not meant to be abused.

Makes sense to me.

uncledave157
4
Points
uncledave157 04/16/14 - 10:39 am
0
2
Violation of our freedoms.

I have to tell you as I hear more and more attacks of our personal freedoms. now the church is getting involved and on Easter Sunday. I can't fathom why this minister would use such a holy day to put his own views in play, if I was part of his church I would get up and walk out. This is an outrage. Shame on you sir. Shame on you. As far as I know we have the right given to us by the founders of this country in the pursuit of LIFE, LIBERTY, and HAPPINESS! Sounds like the church has over stepped its bounds once again, never ending struggle to preserve our freedom. Stand up America and take back this country, before we lose all our rights.

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