The Rome City Commission has the authority to ban smoking within the city limits — but should it?
That's the question Commissioner Craig McDaniel hopes to answer at the Sept. 18 meeting of the public safety committee he chairs. At a special called meeting Monday, he said he knows there are pros and cons.
"It's a great idea," he said. "Personally, I wish tobacco would be banned entirely. But, in reality, that's not going to happen."
Since a coalition of local healthcare professionals, agencies and nonprofits called Breatheasy Rome brought the idea to the board last month, commissioners have heard from a host of different interests.
McDaniel said a large percentage of restaurant workers smoke, which has employers concerned some would leave for competitors outside the city. There also are smokers who live and work downtown, he noted.
Commissioner Bill Collins said he's heard from a business owner who thinks a ban would deter some customers and another who thinks it's an overreach.
"He said 'Why do y'all feel like you have to tell other people what they can and cannot do' ... These are the hurdles we face," Collins said.
There's also the question of enforcement — a task the busy police department isn't eager to take on. Chief Denise Downer-McKinney said there also could be perceived conflicts, since some of her officers are smokers.
"How would a person who smokes enforce this and do it fairly? ... I'm all about not smoking. I'm all about health. I just see some potential issues," she said.
Still, there appeared to be a desire to follow in the footsteps of cities such as Savannah, Augusta and Canton that have opted for a smoke-free atmosphere.
"We're looking at the welfare of all the people of Floyd County, especially the kids. That's who we should cater to," said Commissioner Milton Slack. "Once we start to implement this and education comes about, I think everyone will adhere to it."
The committee is devoting the Sept. 18 meeting to accepting public comments. The session starts at 2 p.m. in City Hall, 601 Broad St. McDaniel said every attendee would be allowed up to two minutes to speak.
"We want to be very transparent, and we want to make sure our downtown merchants are on board," he said.
The public safety committee's recommendation will go to the full City Commission for possible action.