Starting July 1, everyone can breathe a little easier in Georgia.
With a few swipes of his pen, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue enacted a statewide smoking ban earlier this month.
The new law covers all sorts of public places -- excluding only a few spots, like bars and restaurants that do not admit people under 18 -- and it has stiff financial penalties built in for rouge smokers.
On the local level, Gov. Perdue's signature allowed McDuffie County Commissioners to gracefully sidestep an ordinance they were considering.
And that is probably a good thing. After all, commissioners had already gutted the original ordinance in the name of placating the interests of business owners, smokers and non-smokers.
From the initial discussions, we've called for passage and swift execution of a smoking ban in McDuffie County. Implementing similar rules in Georgia's other 158 counties is a grand bonus, even if it almost didn't happen.
Gov. Perdue made no secret of his trepidation over signing the bill. He was concerned the state was over-stepping its bounds, an argument several state legislators clamped on to during the discussions.
(As a side note, one of those legislators actually took that argument to Atlanta with him. Our own Sen. Jim Whitehead -- one of our favorite public servants -- used the same argument during Columbia County's discussions of a smoking ban last year. At least he stuck to his guns during the state battle, even if we didn't agree with his position. We're willing to offer much more respect to someone who stays the course instead of vacillating with the convenient political wind.)
In the end, the people of Georgia are the true winners in this battle. It is nice to see someone in state government finally found the courage to put public health and welfare first.
And for that, Georgia's legislature deserves a collective pat on the back.