Commissioners vote 6-4 in favor of smoke free ordinance

AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - FOX 54 has been following some breaking news coming out of the Augusta – Richmond County Commission Chamber on Tuesday. 
Commissioners voted 6 to 4 to pass the smoking ordinance starting on January 1st.

Almost all the seats were filled in the Commission Chamber, supporters of the ordinance on one half wearing stickers saying "I want to breathe easy". The other side, bar owners had messages like "My bar, my choice" but starting January 1st, it will no longer be a choice.

"Unfortunately whichever way we decided, we're gonna have just as many people happy as you would have upset or vice versa, so it wasn't really something to celebrate," says Commissioner Andrew Jefferson.

Commissioners voted 6-4 to pass the smoke-free ordinance no longer allowing smokers to smoke inside of bars and private businesses which cause concerns for bar owners.

"What we've done now is throw out freedom of choice," says Clint Martin.

Commissioner Jefferson says this isn't ordinance isn't meant to keep businesses from making money.

"It wasn't to do anything to hinder business but from a health standpoint I thought it was a major step forward for the city of Augusta to do what other cities have done and found it to be successful," he says.

But instead improving the overall health for Augusta – Richmond County, which according to a recent report ranks 124th out of 159 Counties in Georgia.

"Years ago, when restaurants became smoke-free environments, people were up in arms about that until it just became a thing where you really accept it," he explains.

The hope is that this ordinance is accepted in Augusta over time.

Instead of smokers smoking 10 feet away from the bar or private business, the ordinance now says a reasonable distance away from the property.

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