The McDuffie County Commission will soon be all ears concerning the possibility of a ban on smoking in public buildings.
Prior to their monthly work session on Jan. 31, commissioners will open the floor to those wishing to speak against or in favor of the proposed ordinance that if passed, could leave all McDuffie restaurants smoke-free.
County Manager Don Norton said the format of the hearing has yet to be decided, mainly because officials aren't sure how many will show up ready to speak. He added that the hearing would probably not last longer than an hour.
"We'll want to get all opinions, pro and con, out in as an efficient fashion as we can," Mr. Norton said.
Commissioners will take the public input from the hearing and the results of a survey of businesses into consideration during their discussions about the ban. The survey showed 92 percent of business owners that responded were in favor of the ban.
Mary Ann Kotras, executive director of McDuffie County Partners for Success which includes an arm of the Tobacco Use Prevention Coalition, plans on bringing in speakers and plenty of public support for the ban.
"This is a public heath issue that promotes healthy living for all McDuffie County residents," she said.Ý"The statistics are staggering in terms of the health care cost to the individual, his or her family, and the community, whether it be the smoker or those who are the recipients of second-hand smoke."
In past meetings several commissioners, including Chairman Charlie Newton, have expressed concern over dictating what businesses can and cannot allow. Those in favor of the ban think the issue runs deeper than that.
"We understand local governments are reluctant to impose restrictions, but this issue impacts everyone who comes into contact with those who smoke," Dr. Kotras said.
McDuffie isn't the first CSRA county to consider a ban on smoking in public buildings. Richmond County held discussions on a ban last year, and Columbia County Commissioners approved a smoke free air ordinance by a 3-2 vote late last year.
Columbia County's smoking ban took effect on Jan. 1, and so far it has caused little to no problems for restaurant business. The success of the Columbia County ban even has some Georgia legislators considering a state-wide ban.
The McDuffie County Commission's public hearing is open to all McDuffie residents and business owners. It will begin at 6 p.m. on Jan. 31 on the second floor of the courthouse.
Morris News Service Writers Preston Sparks and Jim Nesbitt contributed to this story.