Pearl River County ahead of the effort against public smoking
Published 7:00 am Thursday, April 13, 2017
Pearl River County’s municipalities outlawed smoking inside businesses and government buildings a number of years ago, but there are still many cities where smoking in these settings is legal.
According to data released by the Mississippi State University Social Science Research Center, Pearl River County’s municipalities are two of 135 cities in the state that have gone 100 percent smoke-free, which is less than half of the 299 incorporated areas in the state.
Picayune and Poplarville adopted identical ordinances in 2014, banning smoking in all work and public places and establishing other restrictions regarding smoking within entrances and exits of enclosed areas. Private clubs and residences are exempt.
The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors hasn’t adopted the same policy, but did approve a Board order banning smoking in government buildings several years ago, County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said.
One of the few exceptions to the rule is Picayune’s American Legion Post 73 where smoking is still allowed indoors.
Bar manager Keith Watts said about 97 percent of his customers smoke and are glad to have a place where they can still do so in town.
However he does receive complaints from time to time from non-smokers, more often during events where 200 people or more are in the room, Watts said.
When the city passed ordinances banning smoking in other restaurants, Watts said he saw an increase in customers coming to the American Legion.
“There’s a couple places, at restaurants and bars, where people can’t smoke while they’re shooting pool,” he said, so customers pack up their pool sticks and head to the legion, which has its own pool league.
About 90 percent of people in the league smoke, Watts said.
He added that the bar room has four fans used to to remove smoke from the air. Watts said the fans are turned on when necessary.
According to a report released by the Mississippi Tobacco Data organization in February, less than .01 percent of Mississippi residents were protected from tobacco smoke by 100 percent smoke-free air laws in public places. Now, 25.1 percent of state’s residents are protected, ranking 35th in the nation.
Mississippi ranks fifth in the prevalence of high school students who smoke, at 15.2 percent, according to Mississippi Tobacco Data. The state with the lowest underage smokers was Rhode Island, at 4.8 percent, and the state with the most is West Virginia at 18.8 percent, according to the report.
Meanwhile, 22.6 of Mississippi smoke, ranking fourth in the nation. Mississippi adult smokers averaged 62.6 packs in 2015, above the national average of 41.8 packs, the report states.