Smoking Ban Debated By City And State Leaders

A bill just filed in the Mississippi Senate would ban smoking in most public places across the state, including restaurants. Senate bill 2052 is called the Mississippi Uniform Smoke-Free Public Place Act of 2008.

While the statewide ban is being debated at the state capitol, the city of Long Beach will put its no smoking talk on hold. But, a Long Beach alderman remains convinced that eventually, his city needs to be smoke free.

Richard Burton is a smoker. He usually smokes a couple of cigarettes. That's probably why the only cigarettes around his house were in a motorcycle compartment. However, when he goes, his cigarette consumption goes up. "The more smokers I'm around, the more I smoke," the ward three alderman said.

Burton is trying to get rid of his cigarette addiction. To prove that point, he took the last cigarette in a pack of cigarettes and broke it. "I just broke my habit. That's it for me," he said.

Burton believes his long term battle to kick the habit would be a lot easier, and his community would be a lot healthier, if Long Beach kicked the habit, too. "For the city's health, it's a no brainer," he said.

Anthony Portera recently opened a Long Beach restaurant called Ziggy's. Customers can only smoke there if they go to an outside courtyard. He hopes that any smoking ban in the city or the state grandfather in his smoking zone. "If they can smoke out on my patio, and my customers inside who don't smoke don't have to be around it, then it works for me," Portera said.

Tuesday night, Long Beach aldermen put off a decision on a public smoking ban until more research could be done on the issue, and until lawmakers up in Jackson debate Senate bill 2052 -- the Mississippi Uniform Smoke Free Public Place Act of 2008. Burton received the bill just before the board of aldermen meeting. "Upon reading it, I realized a lot of the things in here are what we're going to want," he said.

The senate bill is clearly an indication that the push to snuff out public smoking has become a hot topic. Nineteen Mississippi cities currently have smoke free ordinances on their books. And now, it's an issue in Long Beach, and it's been debated in the city of Gulfport.

Consequently, that makes it an issue at Gulfport Biloxi International Airport, because if Gulfport bans smoking, plans to open a smoking room here become rather cloudy. Airport director Bruce Frallic hopes to work with Gulfport on any smoking ordinance, so the area inside the terminal's security zone remains legal. "I don't know how they'll take it up in the actual ordinance. But we'd like to be able to operate this," he said.

No matter what they do at the airport, and no matter what they decide in Jackson, Alderman Burton vows to keep cigarette smoke out of Long Beach, and away from his lips. "I'm not going to smoke anymore. I'm done with it," he said. Burton then dropped his empty pack of cigarettes and stomped on it.