City of Rome Logo

"The first reading will be Jan. 28 and they'll hold the second reading, not a public hearing, at the first meeting in February," City Clerk Joe Smith said.

Anyone who wants to weigh in, however, may sign up to speak during the citizen comments section of the meetings, which are held at 6:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Mondays of each month in City Hall.

The amendment to the city's smoking ordinance would prohibit smoking and vaping on all public property along Broad and its side streets, between East First and East Eighth avenues.

It includes sidewalk cafes, the Town Green, the Third Avenue Parking Deck and Bridgepoint Plaza.

Smokers could be fined $50 for the first offense and up to $250 for repeat offenses. Business owners who fail to stop employees or customers from smoking could be hit with penalties ranging from $100 to $500.

Concerns about government overreach have dogged the proposal since discussions began last fall. Downtown property owner and resident Diane Lewis said Tuesday she strongly objects to the enforcement mechanism.

"Fines for business owners that don't enforce it are roughly twice the fine for a person violating the ordinance," Lewis pointed out. "Compelling a private person with no training ... to enforce an ordinance feels arbitrary, almost unlawful."

But a coalition of local healthcare advocates called Breatheasy Rome has argued that visitors and employees deserve protection from the dangers and annoyance of secondhand smoke.

"It allows an individual person, the general public, to say to a smoker, 'The city has an ordinance; would you mind putting that out,'" said spokesman J.C. Abdou, a radiation oncologist at Harbin Clinic.      

Breatheasy Rome had sought an even wider scope and did get an addition Tuesday.

A citywide ban on smoking in indoor service lines is expanded to cover outdoor lines as well. Service lines are where people wait for access to areas such as ATMs, movies, sporting events, food and concerts.

"At Barron Stadium where they're lined up to get in, you don't want people smoking there, especially around children," said Gena Agnew, executive director of the Northwest Georgia Regional Cancer Coalition.

Committee members rejected the group's request to end a provision in the citywide ordinance that exempts smoking inside bars and restaurants that don't allow customers or employees under the age of 18.

Abdou said establishments would abuse the exemption to get around the ban. City Commissioner Craig McDaniel, who chairs the committee, said the decision to make the trade-off should be up to the business owner.

"I think it's an intrusion on private property," McDaniel said.

The committee, which includes Mayor Bill Collins and Commissioner Milton Slack, also declined to eliminate the indoor smoking exemption for retail smoking and vape stores in the Broad Street buildings. Collins said it would be unfair to deny new businesses the sales tools granted to the existing Old Havana Cigar Co.