State law would affect local smokers By John Gunn

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Vidalia &8212; As the state Legislature debates a smoking ban in restaurants, some locals are questioning why it&8217;s necessary.

A house committee approved a smoking ban Wednesday that would take smoke out of restaurant dining areas. The bill by Sen. Rob Marionneaux, D-Livonia, would allow smoking in bars and casinos as well as closed- off bars or outside areas of restaurants. Hotel rooms would also be exempted from the ban as long as 20 to 50 percent of the hotel rooms were non-smoking rooms.

Jimmy Myers, a non-smoker and owner of Tobacco Mart in Vidalia, said he wasn&8217;t sure a law for smokers was quite right.

Email newsletter signup

&8220;I kind of feel like smokers are being persecuted because they&8217;re being treated bad and subject to regulations a person would normally not be,&8221; he said. &8220;I think if someone wants to smoke, it should be their prerogative.&8221;

Amendments to the bill were tried for, but the only one that has stuck so far is restaurant owners would be given until 2008 to separate the bar room from dining areas.

&8220;I understand people not liking tobacco smoke, but I think people that do smoke go out of their way not to infringe on other peoples rights,&8221; Myers said.

Slough Daddy&8217;s Restaurant owner Jeff Bairnsfather, who has a closed off bar inside his restaurant and is a non-smoker, still sides with the rights of smokers.

&8220;I think it&8217;s an unfair advantage to casinos and bars and looks to me like it would be impossible to enforce,&8221; he said.

The House health and Welfare Committee approved the measure 13-1, now sending it to the Full House. The bill made its way through the senate without much difficulty.

Rep. Diane Winston, D-Covington, was the only member that opposed the ban. She told lawmakers a ban creation would be followed by other bans to regulate people&8217;s behavior.