It’s time to put a halt to smoking in public places

Published 5:23 pm Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I went into my favorite coffee shop for lunch more than a week ago while recovering from flu, pneumonia and other ills that have been circulating in the Picayune area.

Since I was still feeling somewhat poorly and wasn’t very hungry, I went to the front and told them that I didn’t want my usual sandwich, but wanted a bowl of soup instead.

Then I went and sat down at a small table off to one side since I was alone and opened my latest book to read while I waited.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The people who had settled at the table next to me went to the counter and secured an ash tray and fired up their cigarettes.

I don’t like the smell of cigarette smoke when I’m well and it makes me nauseous when I’m feeling poorly.

I will never understand why some people can’t take the hint. If ashtrays aren’t on the table, then the management would prefer that you didn’t smoke. Of course, some restaurants such as this one keep them behind the counter in an effort to at least reduce the amount of tobacco smoke in the establishment for the rest of their customers, but sometimes that doesn’t work.

This day it didn’t work.

I picked up my book, water, napkins and silverware and moved to the other side of the restaurant to get away from the smoke after the smokers lit their cigarettes. No sooner had I sat down, than the folks at the table next to me on this side also fired up their cigarettes.

By the time I left, I was really feeling poorly.

I have noticed that at least two other coffee houses in Picayune, as well as a fish house in McNeill, don’t allow smoking, at least inside their establishments. The coffee houses have tables outside for those who wish to pollute the air.

People at the office tell me there are other places now in town that don’t allow smoking. I’m going to have to discover them.

The simple solution to all of this, of course, would be for the City of Picayune to ban smoking in public places. One should not have to search around to find a smoke-free place to eat. Also, my favorite coffee house makes my all time favorite sandwich. I don’t appreciate having to suffer because some people have so little regard for their own health and the health of others in order the have that sandwich for lunch.

I wonder if these smokers have any idea about how badly they stink to most of those around them. Yep, to most of those around them.

Most people don’t smoke today. The latest survey I saw said that 25 percent or fewer of the today’s adults smoke. You can’t tell it by the fear some eating establishments have of losing customers if they ban smoking or by the fear of Picayune’s Mayor and City Council that they may lose votes should they enact such an ordinance.

My suggestion is that the majority of us, which is all of us who don’t smoke, deliver a message to this august body — ban smoking in restaurants and other public places in town or look only among that small number — the minority — who smoke for your votes.

I really don’t understand their fear. Many Mississippi cities and towns, especially in North Mississippi, have already banned smoking. Hattiesburg, which is much larger than Picayune and less than an hour away has banned smoking.

The whole state of Louisiana, which is right next door, has banned smoking in restaurants and other public places. Mississippi should follow suit, but with a tobacco lobbyist for governor, that doesn’t seem likely while he remains in office.

I wonder if the Mayor and members of the City Council have noticed that some restaurants in Picayune, even without their action, already are banning smoking inside their establishments.

Highland Community Hospital has announced that it is putting in place a ban on smoking on its grounds in the very near future. The hospital’s press release makes note of how important it is to the health of medical facility’s staff and patients to have such a ban.

Here, at our office and I’m sure in other offices around town, neither employees nor customers are allowed to smoke inside the building. Those who want to smoke have to take their cigarettes and other smokes outside.

Unfortunately, we do have a few employees who take their breaks outside to smoke. It would be better for them if they didn’t smoke at all. Interestingly, it appears that far fewer than 25 percent of our employees smoke, which means we are a little ahead of the polls.