Columbus businesses fire back after smoking ordinance presented at city council

Columbus businesses fire back after smoking ordinance presented at city council

After a month of preparation, Columbus City Council presented a draft ordinance at their meeting Tuesday that would make Columbus "smoke-free."

This ordinance was initially brought up by a coalition that looks to better the health of the community.

This is the new ordinance that city council presented saying Division 1 of Article I of this chapter shall be known as the Columbus, Georgia Smoke free Air Ordinance of 2017. The majority of people in attendance at city council were there to voice their opinions on this potential ordinance.

"When we've worked with the community, when we've been at community events, we've heard from the community members and they overwhelmingly support this," Nicole Leth said with Breathe Easy Columbus.

Leth is an advocate of the revision ordinance including 20 sections listing off the different potential prohibitions of smoking throughout the city.

"The way it's written right now it's set up for me to fail which will force me to close my doors and I would lose out on a quarter-million-dollar investment I made and not to mention a loss of jobs as well.", says Crowne Hookah Owner Saad Ahmed.

Councilwoman Judy Thomas has been a supporter of the ordinance from the beginning and offered the businesses a trade off by saying "hookah can stay but it has to be 100 percent tobacco free." Businesses fire back claiming they never thought this would be part of their model.

"You're going to cut out my smoking because smoking kills well you know what let's close down every fast food restaurant in town because technically cheeseburgers have grease and fat that cause heart disease well let's stop eating that," says Javier Garcia from 18th Amendment Cigar Shop.

Councilwoman Woodson says she misunderstood the language of the ordinance and she was one of the only city council members to speak up against it claiming "Uptown is bringing people together" and she doesn't think the prohibition of smoking would be beneficial, and businesses agree.

"They need to leave the law like the state of Georgia has it leave it as it is if you want to have a smoking environment then you make the concessions to have a smoking environment," says Garcia.

Meanwhile, supporters of the ordinance say they are moving forward to hopefully get this amendment passed.

"We will sit with city council and city attorneys and discuss some of those changes.", says Leth.

Councilwoman Judy Thomas encourages the community to read over the ordinance and call your council member if you have any questions.

There is language in the amendment that notes restaurants and bars can operate if they have proper a ventilation system as of Jan. 1, 2017 and operate under a certain percentage of food to tobacco sales.

The ordinance will be back on the city council agenda in two weeks.

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