Statewide smoking ban signed - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Statewide smoking ban signed

Thomasville- Georgia now has a statewide smoking ban. The governor signed the bill Monday afternoon. It greatly restricts the types of places smokers can light up.

     Now in the Peach State, people can only smoke in a handful of places, including their homes, retail tobacco stores, and long-term care facilities. People can also smoke in bars and restaurants so long as those establishments don't allow people under 18 inside. And that's what concerns some business owners who have a variety of customers.

     The Billiard Academy in downtown Thomasville is known for its chili dogs. But owner Joe Kirkland says it's also known as an "everyone invited" hang out where people could once smoke openly. Until today's new smoking ban, that is. "Our beer drinkers, pool players, 90 percent of them are smokers. So it would hurt us, in a way, on beer drinking and pool playing," says Kirkland.

     Kirkland says the new ban wouldn't affect his hot dog sales though. But that's because non-smokers have the option of never having to go inside. "About 60 percent of our business is walk up window business," says Kirkland.

     Some non-smokers say the ban protects their health, keeping them clear of second-hand samples. "Whether you're in this section or that section, the smoke's going to drift around," says non-smoker Pat Christopher. But the same non-smokers also say they can respect people's former right to puff where they want to, just like they have the right to go elsewhere. "If you don't want to smoke, then choose your places where you go where they don't allow smoking," adds Christopher.

     That's a choice this new smoking ban helped make for many people, including most of Kirkland's customers. "The majority would probably still come in, because they can walk out back and smoke, then come back in," says Kirkland. That's a compliance with the law Kirkland calls "going with the flow" of changing times.

     This new smoking ban is actually fairly broad compared to many other states. A survey conducted by state legislators shows that only Florida has as broad a ban as Georgia.

     The smokers are not being as outspoken as you might think. None of the five smokers at the Billiard Academy wanted to go on camera. All but two likened the ban to the seizure of their personal rights.

     The law will take effect July first.

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