Rome City commissioners voted 7-2 in favor of a smoking ordinance for the downtown community that has split the community — not so much as being pro-smoking but concerns of excessive legislation. There was little if any disagreement over the health concerns; instead, it came down to legislation, enforcement and impact on business.
Voting in favor were commissioner Jamie Doss, Evie McNiece, Craig McDaniel, Randy Quick, Sundai Stevenson and Milton Slack as well as Mayor Bill Collins. Voting no: Commissioner Bill Irmscher, citing business feedback, and Commissioner Wendy Davis.
The vote followed a long discussion period dominated by leaders of the community’s healthcare systems as well as downtown representatives. Among the 14 speakers at the City Commission meeting:
- Kenna Stock – Harbin Clinic CEO
- John Quinlivan – Redmond Regional Medical CEO
- David Early – Floyd Medical Center
- Bob Blumberg, downtown business owner, resident and member of the Downtown Development Authority. He talked about the potential impact on downtown employees and businesses, some of whom are smokers.
Commissioner Bill Irmscher spoke about some of the research concerning second-hand smoke, presenting his own research that basically countered some of what was said Monday evening.
Commissioner Wendy Davis drilled into the smoking ordinance, as proposed, and its impact on business owners. She told of her father’s smoking habits and how it might have led to his demise. She likewise praised medical facilities and others that have gone tobacco free. But she also wanted to know more about the ordinance’s enforcement. She asked Commissioner Craig McDaniel about what feedback he had heard from authorities and he said he was told it would not be deemed a priority for enforcement.
McDaniel also said signage would be a big part of the enforcement end. Almost every commissioner went on to recall personal tales of smoking.
Commissioner Evie McNiece told of witnessing autopsies and seeing scarred lungs in some of her past jobs. But, she added, “We just don’t legislate everything.” She urged the healthcare community assembled to continue strong advocacy about the dangers of smoking. “I’m personally going to hold you responsible, too…. be part of this partnership,” she said.
Gena Agnew of the Northwest Georgia Regional Cancer Coalition, accepted that challenge and said it is the continuing mission of her agency to help smokers learn more about the damages of smoking as well as how to stop. Agnew was among those speaking before the commission vote as well.
The ordinance takes effect April 1.