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Businesses use anti-smoking laws to clear air

Area residents breathe easy

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POSTED: November 18, 2012 3:00 p.m.
Photo by Emily C. Harrison/

Many smoke-free signs have been posted around the medical campus at Winn Army Community Hospital on Fort Stewart. The measure is in place to protect the health of all the hospitals’ patients, according to WACH public affairs officer Michelle Gordon.

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We are all breathing easier these days thanks to state, county and city laws enacted to protect the public from secondhand smoke.
These harmful effects are cited in Georgia’s Smoke-free Air Act of 2005 and both Liberty County and Hinesville ordinances restrict smoking in public places to protect public health, especially children. The act restricts smoking in any enclosed public place and within a “reasonable distance” from public buildings.
A Liberty County ordinance adds smoking restrictions for all county-owned and operated buildings, vehicles and parks. Hinesville’s ordinance goes a step further, defining a reasonable distance as 25 feet. Fines for violations range from $50 to $500, depending on location and occurrence.
Smokers may see the laws as an annoyance because they are designed to make smoking in public difficult. The laws protect nonsmokers from the odor, breathing difficulty and discomfort that stems from unwanted exposure.
Coworkers Leslie Zechman and Holly Carter of RTS Homes on Main Street in Hinesville agree with the laws. Both said they like the current smoking restrictions and wish there were even more guidelines to protect them from second-hand smoke.
“I came from a smoke-free city where you could not smoke 50 feet from any building. So I was used to that, here it isn’t that far,” Carter said.
We are all breathing easier these days thanks to state, county and city laws enacted to protect the public from secondhand smoke.
These harmful effects are cited in Georgia’s Smoke-free Air Act of 2005 and both Liberty County and Hinesville ordinances restrict smoking in public places to protect public health, especially children. The act restricts smoking in any enclosed public place and within a “reasonable distance” from public buildings.
A Liberty County ordinance adds smoking restrictions for all county-owned and operated buildings, vehicles and parks. Hinesville’s ordinance goes a step further, defining a reasonable distance as 25 feet. Fines for violations range from $50 to $500, depending on location and occurrence.
Smokers may see the laws as an annoyance because they are designed to make smoking in public difficult. The laws protect nonsmokers from the odor, breathing difficulty and discomfort that stems from unwanted exposure.
Coworkers Leslie Zechman and Holly Carter of RTS Homes on Main Street in Hinesville agree with the laws. Both said they like the current smoking restrictions and wish there were even more guidelines to protect them from second-hand smoke.
“I came from a smoke-free city where you could not smoke 50 feet from any building. So I was used to that, here it isn’t that far,” Carter said.
Zechman said no employees smoke, so they don’t have any workplace rules on smoking, but could develop them if needed.
“If we did have employees who smoke, we would most likely make them smoke well away from the building, probably all the way out back to the park,” she said. “We couldn’t have anyone out front smoking by the door because the smoke would blow in.”
Across the street at Len Graddy & Associates there is a small sign in the window facing the street that reads “No smoking please.”
Administrative assistant Amy King said even though none of the employees smoke, it wasn’t so much the smoke that bothered folks at the financial planning firm, but the mess left behind.
“People like to smoke right outside the alcove in front of the window and leave their butts all over the ground,” King said. The sign was placed in hopes it would urge smokers to find another place to hang out.
At Uncommon Grounds coffee shop on Commerce Street, co-owner Drew Cole said he read of a study that indicated that second-hand smoke isn’t as bad for people’s health as the medical community initially thought.  
“I find it funny that they still have all the restrictions ... although I’m not a professional smoker or anything,” he said, adding the business has a designated smoking area behind the shop to keep smoke away from customers.
The Coastal Courier even recently beefed up its smoke-free workplace policy, requiring employees who smoke to go completely off Courier property, including the parking lot.
Fort Stewart soldiers, families and civilian employees also are protected while on the installation. Chapter 7 of Army Regulation 600-63 says there can be no smoking within 50 feet of public buildings.
Michelle Gordon, Winn Army Community Hospital’s public affairs officer, said the medical campuses at both Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield go beyond the Army’s smoking restrictions.
“The entire medical campus is 100 percent smoke-free. No smoking is allowed anywhere on the hospital grounds or parking lots.  Smokers must go completely across the street from campus to smoke,” she said.  
Large signs have been posted around the medical campus outside buildings and in parking lots to reflect that smoking is restricted.


 

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