Pascagoula considering going smoke-free

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - In Pascagoula, you can't smoke in government buildings. Smoking is also banned at city parks.  Some council members want to extend the ban.

Jen Dearman is the Community Development Director.

"We were approached by several citizens during different council meetings to try and do something about secondhand smoke and the different hazards that secondhand smoke brings," Dearman said.

The ban could even include public streets, sidewalks, and even piers.

But not all council members agree on such a sweeping ordinance, including Frank Corder.

"Private establishments, restaurants, bars, office buildings are all private property, private establishments and I think that it's an overreach of government to go further than what we've done so far," Corder said.

Business owners have their own opinions. At the popular Annex restaurant, smoking was allowed for 60 years. Not anymore, according to owner Denise Shultz.

"August 1, I decided to go non-smoking," Schultz explained.  "It hasn't hurt my business, I'm seeing people that I haven't seen in a long time, I'm getting a lot of very good comments. I even have more children coming into the restaurant."

That's not the case at Thunders Tavern. A smoking ban could snuff out business at the nightclub.

"It would pretty much put a big dent in it," said owner John "Thunder" Thornton. "We're already down with the economy being bad and everything, so we really don't need anything that's anti-business and this is anti-business."

Meanwhile, retired Doctor Ken Seay walks the beach every morning. He sees both sides.

"I think it's a good idea. It's kind of getting into people's personal business, but that may be the only way to convince people that it's bad for your health," Seay said.

As with any controversial topic, no one knows exactly how this whole thing will play out in the end. The public will have two opportunities to speak their mind, April 16th and again on April the 18th.

Only one thing is certain right now, the discussion should be lively, according to Dearman.

"I really expect robust debate about it.  I haven't heard a good solid one way or the other sort of decision. I will be interesting how it figures out."

Again, those public meetings on the proposed ordinance are at Pascagoula City Hall on April 16th at 6pm and on April 18th at the Senior Center, also at 6pm.

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