State smoking ban still up in air - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

State smoking ban still up in air

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Poulan- The restaurant at Ed's Truck Stop in Poulan is full of regulars at lunch time, but it's a crowd of both smokers and non-smokers.

"I can't stand to be around smoking. When I'm trying to eat something it irritates me really, and the smell, and I just don't like it," says Vermon Bearden.

Insurance agent Vermon Bearden says he worries about the effects of second-hand smoke.

"I've had clients to be declined because of second-hand smoke," Bearden says.

A few tables away smoker Steve Jolly says a statewide smoking ban in public places infringes on personal freedoms.

"It's my decision. It's legal, so why are they banning it. It's not going to stop smoking everywhere. Why don't they just ban cigarettes all together," says Jolly.

The Poulan restaurant is sandwiched between Dougherty and Tift Counties, both of which already have smoking bans, and Jolly says he doesn't eat in restaurants where he can't light up.

"I believe it should be left up to the owner of the business if they want to have smoking or non-smoking," Jolly says.

But Representative Austin Scott says restaurant owners actually favored a uniform state law on smoking.

"One of the problems was that a restaurant right across the street would have a different standard and it was causing restaurant owners in that situation problems," Scott says.

Representatives from Governor Sonny Perdue's office say he understands the health benefits of the bill, but is uncomfortable about the impact it may have on businesses. Workers at Ed's don't seem to be worried.

"They'll still come in. People like to come around here and just talk and gossip about things, so I don't think it will bother us too much," says waitress Gail Lee.

If it does become law, Jolly says he won't change his daily lunch routine, but he may not be able to resist the desire to light up.

"I'll probably get kicked out some places for smoking," Jolly laughs.

Governor Perdue has until May 10th, forty calendar days from the end of the session to sign or veto the bill. If no action is taken, it automatically becomes law.

If passed the statewide ban would exclude smoking in bars, restaurants that serve only adults and some small businesses. City and county smoking bans already on the books would supercede the statewide law.

Posted at 5:40 PM by elaine.armstrong@walb.com