Decatur, Georgia – If DeKalb County Commissioners vote to expand its no-smoking ordinance, it will be doing its best to drive away local business, says two Georgia-based premium cigar associations.
According to the Atlanta-based Georgia Premium Retail Tobacconists Association and the International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association, expanding the current smoking ban to include bars, clubs, restaurant patios and other outdoor areas would cause customers to seek other, more smoker-friendly businesses in other communities.
"No time is a good time for legislated smoking bans, but this is a particularly bad time to remove no-smoking exemptions which would jeopardize businesses throughout the county," said Jim Luftman, president of the GPRTA. Luftman owns Blue Havana II Cigars in Alpharetta which approved an ordinance earlier this year that bans tobacco use at its six city parks and along more than six miles of greenway trails.
"If an owner of a business or property designates it as smoke-free, then that’s his or her business to do so or not, and that includes all city or county-owned property," Luftman said. "But it’s just not right for politics and government to interfere with private ownership and the inherent rights of business owners."
Anti-tobacco advocates say the move to smoke-free should be made to protect the health of employees.
"Customers can choose the businesses they patronize just as workers can choose where they work," said Chris McCalla, legislative director for the IPCPR, based in Columbus, Georgia. "They don’t need government passing convoluted laws telling them where to shop or work."
McCalla cited standards by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that set safe levels of secondhand smoke in the workplace.
"OSHA’s safe levels for secondhand smoke are up to 25,000 times higher than the air quality found in most bars and restaurants where smoking is allowed," said McCalla, "so their arguments are fabricated to create fear and misunderstanding. Challenge what the prohibitionists say. Just because they say it doesn’t make it true. Statistics can be manipulated but the truth is the truth."
McCalla and Luftman urged DeKalb County residents to contact their County Commissioners and tell them to vote down the proposed smoking ban extension.