AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) - Those against the proposed ordinance and those in support packed the commission chambers as city leaders debated a sweeping smoking ordinance that will result in bar not allowing smoking inside their businesses.
"I think the benefits will out-weigh any possible negatives that might come out of this. If there are major issues that do, we can always revisit and make amendments. I think it is good for our community and it sends the right message," says Mayor Pro-Tem Mary Davis.
Supporters pushed the ordinance as a way to protect Augusta from the dangers of second hand smoke, and say all of Augusta are the winners.
"It has been a very hard won victory but I really feel like the victory here is for the health of our community. I really do. I'm very excited today because I think it's going to make a true difference," said Jennifer Anderson of BreathEasy Augusta.
Those from the bar business and vape shops spoke out strongly against the policy change, saying city government shouldn't be interfering in their business and that banning smoking will chase customers away from the bars.
But the final vote was six to four in favor of the smoking ban.
"We're just small businesses and that's what we depend on. They don't want to come out and drink and not be able to smoke, so they're going to buy their drinks and they're going to stay home," said Linda Eubanks owner of the Fishbowl Lounge.
"Bar owners say you've hurt my business now by passing this?" I asked.
"You know what, I hope we can come back in a couple of years and that won't be the case because that's what we're seeing all over the country. All over the country we are seeing bar owners not harmed."
Some changes were made to the ordinance. The draft said smokers needed to be 10 feet away from the business, that was changed to a reasonable distance. And existing vape shops will be grandfathered in so they can allow E cigarettes inside, but new ones will not.
The ordinance will take affect January 1st next year.
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