Gulfport Will Hear From The Public On Proposed City-Wide Smoking Ban

Bobby Hartman often grabs a quick smoke after eating lunch.  Hartman, who works in Gulfport, says even though he smokes, it wouldn't bother him to step outside when he lights up.

"I really don't mind not smoking in restaurants, because I can just step outside to have a cigarette if I need one," says Hartman.

If Gulfport passes a new city-wide smoking ban, Hartman will have to do just that, but he'll have to do it 20 feet away from the restaurant.

The proposal would ban smoking in indoor public places like restaurants.  Earnest Ulrich, owner of Port City Café in downtown Gulfport, has been smoke-free since he opened 8 years ago and believes it helps his business.

"We do a lot more businesses with it being non-smoking, by far," says Ulrich.

But, Peter Meleneos who manages Hooters off Highway 49 says he can't support the ban, because it's not fair to all businesses.

"I'm all for the ban if it includes restaurants, bars and casinos.  If not, it puts us at a disadvantage," says Meleneos.

Right now, the ban does not include casinos and bars, but Gulfport City Councilman Brian Carriere, who wrote the proposal, says the issue of fairness boils down to whether or not people are imposing on the rights of others.

"The bottom line is everyones' rights as an individual ends when they infringe upon somebody else's.  When I take my family into the restaurant and someone else is freely smoking because they have the right to, that infringes upon me. And that's when they no longer have the right," syas Carriere.  "I'm hoping Gulfport's going to be the first city on the coast to say that to everyone."

Whether for or against the ban, Carriere says he hopes everyone will come out to the public hearing to make their concerns are heard.