Gautier City Council makes major changes to smoke free rule

GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Tuesday night, the city of Gautier made a major amendment to its new smoke free ordinance. On June 3rd, the city council passed the ordinance for all businesses. The only exclusion was a private club.

Now, just one month into Gautier's smoke-free ordinance, Councilman Charles Anderson proposed an amendment to the rule, allowing bars to be exempt from the smoking ban.

"A bar owner likes an adult to come to his business, and be able to sit and drink an adult beverage, where children aren't present, and have a smoke," said Anderson.

Councilman Anderson voted on the original ordinance, but said he didn't realize bars were not exempt, which is why he authored the amendment. It passed Tuesday night 5-2, but Mayor Gordon Gollott is disappointed with the decision.

"For us to revise this ordinance to become non-comprehensive has closed a lot of doors," said Mayor Gollott.

The smoke free ordinance would have made the city eligible for a $50,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield Healthy Hometown grant, but only if the ordinance did not allow any exemptions. With this new amendment, the city is no longer eligible.

"Developers looking to come into a particular town that's one of the things they look at. The entire United States are going smoke free," said Mayor Gollott.

During the comment period, several business owners spoke about why their businesses should be exempt. An advocate with the Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition also spoke at the meeting, giving some statistics about cities that have gone smoke free.

"Places that have went smoke free, in specifically Mississippi communities, it's been compared to 12 months previous and the 12 months after a smoke free ordinance, there was an average of 10.22 percent in the tourism and economic development tax," said Danielle Litsey.

Mayor Gollott is disappointed about losing out on grant money, but says either way, it won't stop Gautier from moving forward.

"We will find ways to do things in this city to improve the health and well being of our citizens," said Mayor Gollott.

The amendment now excludes bars from having to go smoke free, and will allow businesses to have separate indoor rooms where people can smoke, as long as they have proper ventilation systems.

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