Marietta Square visitors will soon be able to breathe a little easier.
The City Council on Wednesday passed a ban on smoking and vaping on public right of way around the Square by a 6-0 vote. Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly was not present at the meeting.
Mayor Steve Tumlin said the effort began as an attempt to ban smoking at Square restaurants’ outdoor seating, in compliance with the Clean Air Act. Square restaurants require a permit to set up tables on the city-owned sidewalks.
Tumlin said all of the Marietta Square’s eateries except for Johnnie MacCracken's Celtic Firehouse Pub are already smoke-free on the inside, so it only makes sense that outdoor dining areas are smoke-free too.
But if the city had only banned smoking at outdoor restaurant seating locations, people could have still lit up just a step or two away from the tables, he said.
“Once we committed that the restaurants had to comply with the law, it didn’t make sense other than to just make everything smoke-free,” he said.
City Manager Bill Bruton said the ordinance will go into effect as soon as the city can get the word out.
“We’re going to have to get signage out and information out to the public to let them know before it goes into effect, so it will be a period of a few weeks before we would be able to get the signs and everything up to mark off the areas that are in the downtown that are within that zone,” Bruton said. “And the restaurants are going to have to get little placards that will go on the table that will have the no smoking sign, so we’ll be working with them on that.”
Council members only had positive things to say about the plan.
“I think we did the right thing,” said Councilman Johnny Walker. “We have so many families coming in here, and people don’t want second-hand smoke. I just think it’s time we did it.”
Councilwoman Cheryl Richardson said for her, the issue is both practical and personal.
“It is a health issue,” she said. “There are other issues around it with butts being left around, but mostly it’s a health issue, and that’s one of the things we’re charged with is the health and welfare of our citizens. I can’t say don’t smoke at your house, if you want to smoke in your house, smoke in your house, but why should the person at the table next to you who just wants to be outside be inconvenienced or injured by your smoking? I think it’s a great thing, and my mother died from lung cancer being a lifelong smoker at 66, so I just have something against smoking.”
Mayor Tumlin said he has only heard positive feedback from constituents as well.
“I don’t think we’re going to look like nannies,” he said. “Most people understand, especially in a place where you’ve got a lot of pedestrians.”