Tobacco Crackdown At School Sporting Events

Two years ago the state legislature passed a law that extends the tobacco ban on school property to include sporting events. The law even applies to athletic fields that the school may not own, but uses.

Friday night, Harrison County sheriff's deputies will write tickets to tobacco users at the Harrison Central/D'Iberville game. Last year, people got warnings.

"That's what the law says, that the first time you warn them, the second time they get a ticket, and it's $75. The third time it's a $150 fine. This is not a criminal law, it's what we call a civil law... They won't have a criminal record and all the tickets will go to the justice court in their jurisdiction. The money goes into the general fund of Harrison County," Jimmy Johnson with Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi says.

Johnson says people have a choice if they want to smoke or use tobacco, but not if it infringes on other people's rights.

"You're blowing smoke from a pipe or cigar or cigarette around me, or spitting' in a cup, that's very disgusting. Plus I can't see the game, plus that second hand smoke I'm inhaling is endangering my life. So it's not really a choice, it's a health issue."

The sheriff's department wants the city police departments also to write tickets at school games. But Biloxi Chief Bruce Dunagan says he doesn't have the manpower to do that. Still, he says his officers look for violators.

"When they did see somebody lighting up a cigarette, or some type of chewing tobacco, they would advise them if they wanted to do that they had to go off the grounds, which they did comply. We had very few incidents," Dunagan says.

The Chief says his officers will follow that procedure again this year, leaving other officers free to patrol the streets.