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Residents call for council to snuff out the cigarettes

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By Marty Finley

By MARTY FINLEY

mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com

RADCLIFF — Anti-smoking proponents descended on Radcliff City Hall on  Tuesday night during the council’s regular meeting, calling for council members to address their concerns about smoking in local businesses and the adverse effects of being exposed to it.

The group — including members of Smoke Free Radcliff and local churches — told council members they were tired of local businesses and smokers forcing them to go to Elizabethtown or Louisville for their meals and business because of the continual tobacco smoke and haze that hovers in many of the city’s establishments.

Mayor Sheila Enyart said it was tricky to legislate something like smoking, adding that businesses are heavily regulated already, a point reiterated by Councilman J.J. Duvall, himself a small business owner.

Furthermore, Enyart said businesses would regulate themselves and voluntarily curb smoking if it proved a detriment to their business.

But some who spoke said business owners do not know what they are missing because they never received some business because of smoke.

“This is a no-brainer,” said the Rev. Jim Shaw, pastor of Mill Creek Baptist Church. Shaw said the council has the chance to do something right by cleaning up businesses and helping Radcliff live up to its potential.

“This is a health issue; I don’t see what the problem is,” Shaw added.

Dawn Scott, a member of Smoke Free Radcliff, said smoky environments pose a considerable health risk, pointing to a severe asthma attack she suffered years ago that she attributed to smoke in a local restaurant.

She said smokers were infringing on the rights of nonsmokers by making them breathe unhealthy air.

“I should have the right to breathe clean air,” she said.

But Martha Massie, one of the only smoking supporters in attendance, said she felt the group was misleading in their arguments, claiming a survey produced in Radcliff that showed 75 percent of people are in favor of going smoke free is “bogus.”

Massie also said she shouldn’t be punished for smoking because of other people’s medical problems and health concerns.

Shaw countered, though, and defended the survey, telling the council he will provide them all of the documentation.

Councilman Chuck Angus, one opponent of a smoking ban, said he considers smoking an unhealthy habit and does not promote it or want to be around it, but he said the people of Radcliff have the choice to stay away from businesses that allow smoking.

Likewise, he said several local restaurants have voluntarily gone smoke-free.

But the group disagreed with Angus’ stance and said the choices in Radcliff for dining are limited to fast food restaurants and a handful of alternatives, such as Applebee’s, that allow smoking.

City facilities are smoke-free, Angus said, but it is because these facilities, such as city hall, are exclusive. If someone needs to conduct business at city hall there is only one they can visit, Angus continued, but he said this is not so with the city’s restaurants.

Vine Grove resident Michael Lunz acknowledged that Applebee’s has a non-smoking section, but he said the smoke clings to your body as soon as you walk through the door.

“Secondhand smoking kills,” he said bluntly.

Others said the issue went beyond restaurants and stretched over to other businesses, such as True Value Hardware. Angus and Enyart argued that the business no longer allows smoking, but residents said they had been exposed to smoke at the business because people have become “immune” to signs.

Duvall said the council needed to hear both sides and weigh them before making a decision, and he asked if the group would be willing to open a dialogue up with nonsmokers and try to find a compromise through public forums.

Enyart offered her own compromise, asking if the group would be satisfied if businesses were required to post large signage alerting nonsmokers that it is a smoking establishment. Residents balked at the idea, though, and said the signs would solve nothing. Radcliff resident Eric Burns pointed to the Fort Knox post realignment as a motivator, telling the council it should consider the economic impact of making the area smoke free and how much additional business and growth could be spurred.

Enyart and council members encouraged residents to band together and visit local businesses with their concerns, while also sponsoring forums to spark debate. The council agreed to attend any forums held.

“(There’s) strength in numbers,” said Councilman Don Yates, one of two councilmen who supported a smoke-free city when it was first brought to the council’s attention. The council voted, 4-2, to not pursue an ordinance on the issue in 2007.

Shaw said the issue goes beyond political, moral or denominational barriers and affects everyone, something with which Scott agreed.

“It’s a major health issue,” she said. “Everyone in here deserves to be healthy.”

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762.