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Columbia County's smoking ban has smooth month

Inside, tables were filled with patrons at the Sidetrack Bar and Grill last Tuesday.

Outside, in a patio area, several ashtrays with 11 cigarette butts proved smokers are still frequenting the business.

It was just more than a month ago that a public indoor smoking ban was instituted in Columbia County, causing some business owners to wonder what the effect would be. On Tuesday, those at Sidetrack, located in Martinez on Washington Road, said the ban hasn't seemed to harm them.

"It really hasn't hurt us as much as we thought it would," said manager Gloria Chastain, adding, "We've seen a few new people that said they came in because of the ordinance."

Richard Harmon, of Columbia County's building inspections department, said Tuesday that since the ordinance took effect, his department has received no reports of violations by restaurants or customers.

"We thought we would have had probably a little bit of activity during that first month, but we've had nothing," he said.

If a restaurant didn't enforce the ordinance, Mr. Harmon said any complaints would be handled by the county's health department. He said the health department would then give the restaurant owner a verbal warning before further action would be taken.

Meanwhile, the issue of an indoor smoking ban is on hold in both McDuffie and Richmond Counties while the Georgia Legislature considers a ban of its own.

"I think prudently it might be a good thing for us to see what they're going to do," said Augusta Commissioner Tommy Boyles, a supporter of the ban. "And then we'd like to see how Columbia County comes out with that suit that's been lodged against them."

That same wait-and-see stance is being taken by McDuffie County as well. Commission Chairman Charlie Newton suggested to the board that it delay a decision on the ordinance until the other two matters were resolved.

Michael Pirtle, who founded a group called itself Citizens Opposing Socialist Tyranny, filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming the county violated his rights as a smoker and a business owner.

Mr. Pirtle said he is waiting for a judge to rule on the county's motion to dismiss the suit.

Still, it is looking more likely that Augusta will end up with a smoking ban, Mr. Boyles said.

"I think if the state doesn't do it, then I kind of get the feeling we're going to come on and do it," he said.

Morris News Service Writer Tom Corwin and McDuffie Mirror Staff Writer Kristopher Wells contributed to this article.

Commission seeks public input
 • E-mail your comments for the McDuffie County Commission to smokingban@thomson-mcduffie.net

Documents
 • McDuffie County Smoke-free Air Act (.pdf)
(.pdf format requires Adobe Reader, click here for free download)

On the Net
 •  View public comments at Thomson-McDuffie.net

Previous stories
 • Smoking ban passes State House as McDuffie waits
 • County sets smoking hearing for Monday
 • Columbia ban begins; McDuffie considers same
 • Local business owners surveyed on prospect of smoking ban
 • Commissioners agree to public hearing on smoking ban
 • Smoking ban to get more discussion
 • Group plans to ask for ban on smoking

Poll
 • Should McDuffie County Commissioners approve a ban on smoking in public places in McDuffie County?

Opinion
 • Mind your butts and your community
 • Reasons Why
 • Smoking ban deserves commissioners' consideration
 • Smoke free is the way to be in McDuffie County

Your Say
 • Freedom to breathe freely

Letters to the Editor
 • Ban should be supported
 • Public health at root of ban
 • Time for smoking ban is now
 • Ban is about changing quality of lives for the better
 • Smoking ban push is a "great cause" to support
 • Ban would deter second-hand exposure
 • Protect the rights and health of people
 • Ban is about changing quality of lives for the better



Web posted on Thursday, February 17, 2005











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