Proposed law could ban public smoking - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Proposed law could ban public smoking

March 1, 2004

Albany-- Mary Sayer is a s
smoker, and she doesn't like having her rights trampled, or being vilified. "People have the right to smoke as much as people have the right not to smoke."

It's a far-reaching ban-- making it illegal to smoke in bars, restaurants and even limiting the number of smoking rooms in hotels, but the vote has been delayed-- for now.

Senate Bill 507 has been delayed indefinitely though, until it is put back on the General Calendar for a vote. But, people on both sides of the debate have very strong opinions about the proposed smoking ban.

Mary Sayer is a long-time smoker and she does not like Senate Bill 507, "I should just think there should be more smokers going out there and protest against it. We have rights too, and they forget about that."

Mary, like several smokers we spoke to, say they feel vilified because of their habit--  and this proposed law, which bans smoking in pretty much every public place, is just another jab at her rights. "That is going against my rights if I want to do it. If I want to die from cancer from smoking, that's my right."

Dr. Jim Hotz says, "It is the single thing that affects our life expectancy most and it is the one thing if we can change it we would have a healthier population."

And that is the thrust behind the bill--  saving lives. Dr. Jim Hotz is a board member of the Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition. Hotz says second hand smoke has an immediate and adverse affect on people.

He even experienced it this weekend at a celebration party for his daughter's state basketball championship victory, "Very nice restaurant, whole family was there with other team members. And someone was smoking in the restaurant and my wife had an asthma attack and it kind ruined the evening for everybody."

And supporters of this bill say a state-wide smoking ban would not only prevent future disrupted evenings, but save lives.

The bill bans smoking in restaurants, bars, bingo halls, convention centers, stadiums and common areas in apartment buildings. A revised version is expected to contain exemptions for some small businesses.

Posted at 5:45 p.m. by melissa.kill@walb.com