Augusta, Georgia – Some Richmond County officials have joined with certain prohibitionist groups to urge extension of the state’s smoking ban to include bars and restaurants in the Greater Augusta area. The International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Association, based in Columbus, Georgia disagrees with the proposed extension.
Advocates of the ban extension say they are pressing the move in Augusta now and that other cities in Georgia, e.g. Macon and Atlanta, are their next targets.
"There are as many examples across the United States of cities and counties loosening their smoking bans as there are those tightening them," said Chris McCalla, legislative director of the IPCPR. "They are finding that legislated smoking bans are unnecessary, they inhibit economic growth, and health issue like secondhand smoke are seriously overstated by the prohibitionists."
McCalla says business owners have the inherent right to decide for themselves whether or not their establishments should be smoke free or not. He said legislated smoking bans are based on the misplaced motivations of local and state lawmakers and regulators.
"Prohibitionists are not bad people. They just don’t have their facts straight and not enough people challenge their misstatements. For example, they said smoking bans don’t hurt businesses. The fact is that smoking bans cost jobs, tax revenues and economic growth in the communities where they are in effect. No less authority than the Federal Reserve Bank, using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is on record showing that smoking bans cost jobs and hurt businesses while putting them at a disadvantage to other competing businesses in surrounding areas," McCalla said.
"Then there are the health claims, like there are no safe levels of secondhand smoke and the 2006 Surgeon General’s Report which has been discredited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration – OSHA – a division of the United States’ Department of Labor. OSHA has, indeed, set safe levels for secondhand smoke and they are 25,000 times higher than the air quality found in most bars and restaurants that permit smoking," he said.
"When government takes away from restaurant and other business owners their right to decide how to run their businesses, it is exceeding its authority and is attacking the rights of smokers and non-smokers, alike," he said.
According to McCalla, many of the IPCPR’s retail members sell their premium tobacco products to restaurants and bars who, in turn, sell them to their customers.
"To ban smoking in Richmond County restaurants and bars will severely reduce these sales which will translate into reduced excise, sales, and income tax revenues for greater Augusta and the entire state of Georgia," he said.