Hernando bans smoking in restaurants, other public places

Published 7:22 pm Thursday, February 8, 2007

The city of Hernando has become the first DeSoto County municipality to ban smoking in restaurants and other public places.

The ordinance, approved on a 3-2 vote Tuesday by the board of aldermen, would take effect in 30 days unless challenged in court.

Before the vote, opponents cited the rights of smokers and business owners, while proponents said health hazards trumped considerations of individual liberties.

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Some of the discussion centered on well-known hangouts Coleman’s Barbecue and Love’s Sports Bar.

Love’s owner Howard Love said, “It should be my choice what they do in my place. I pay all the taxes and all the high rent, and I think it should be my business to run the way I want to run it.”

Other residents complained of health concerns keeping them out of Love’s and Coleman’s.

“It’s not a matter of whether we like it or not. It’s dangerous to smoke in public places,” said Peggy Higgins.

Aldermen Gary Higdon, Sam Lauderdale and Jamie Tipton voted for the ordinance. The nays were Aldermen Sonny Bryant and Andrew Miller, who said it would hurt longtime, homegrown businesses.

Higdon, who spearheaded the ordinance, said he heard loud and clear during town hall meetings that residents want the ban.

Mayor Chip Johnson said, “This isn’t a business decision. This is about protecting the safety of the workers and the people who frequent these businesses.”

Outdoor smoking would have to be at least 25 feet from a business entrance and 10 feet from an exit. The ordinance calls for fines against smokers who light up in off-limits areas and business owners who don’t comply, according to an article on www.commercialappeal.com