Alabaster considers public smoking ban

The Alabaster City Council discussed a possible resolution Monday night that will ban smoking in all public establishments &045;&045;

including bars, restaurants and offices.

Councilman Bob Hicks presented a rough draft of the smoke-free ordinance at the pre-council meeting for council input. He hopes to present a final draft at the May 7 city council meeting.

Hicks said the resolution, which includes a $500 fine for violators, will make Alabaster a healthier place to live, work and travel.

&8220;People don&8217;t realize the damage of second-hand smoke,&8221; said Hicks. &8220;We can do something to safeguard the health of our residents.&8221;

If approved, the all-out smoking ban would be the first of its kind in Shelby County.

Hicks&8217; resolution has the support of the Shelby County Coalition, Alabama Department of Public Health and the American Cancer Society.

&8220;Our goal is to reduce youth tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke,&8221; said Karamie Barksdale, community prevention specialist for the Shelby County Coalition. &8220;Study after study shows that a change of policy is the biggest way to do that.&8221;

However, several Alabaster officials, including Mayor David Frings and councilmen Tommy Ryals and Rick Walters, expressed concern that the resolution may hurt business and invade personal rights.

&8220;I think we butt in way too much already,&8221; said Ryals. &8220;I think it should be left up to the restaurant owner.&8221;

Ryals said it would be unfair to suddenly change policies when several new restaurants are under construction. Longhorn Steakhouse, which is set to open in mid-May, has special ventilation for smoking and non-smoking sections.

&8220;You got all these businesses coming in, and you are going to tell them to redo everything?&8221; Ryals asked.

Supporters of the ordinance say the impact on business would be minimal when compared to the health benefits for all.

&8220;There is no credible evidence we&8217;ve seen that shows businesses lose any money,&8221; said Veronica Hall, with the cancer society