Birmingham’s Public Safety Committee plans to hold a public hearing on Feb. 15 regarding a possible smoking ban that would extend to all public places including the city’s bars, lounges and nightclubs.
According to a draft of the ordinance, the ban would include any public enclosed space. Private clubs are only exempt from the ban during events when the general public isn’t invited.
Any business would be fined a $100 for the first violation, $200 for the second and $500 for any additional violation occurring within one year. Businesses could also risk license suspension or revocation. Individual smokers could be fined $50 per violation.
The proposed ban cites the health risks connected with secondhand and third hand smoke for the public.
“With growth, prosperity, and an ever-changing economic landscape, it is incumbent upon us to maintain strategic growth and the continued safety, protection, and well-being of our citizens and businesses,” Johnathan Austin, president of the Public Safety Committee, said in a letter to local business owners.
According to Melanie Bridgeforth of the American Heart Association, exposure to smoke causes many health problems in addition to known risks such as cancer and respiratory issues.
“Exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of coronary heart disease by 25 to 30 percent,” she said.
The ordinance also cites risks for employees.
“If they work an eight hour shift, that’s an equivalent of smoking 16 cigarettes,” Bridgeforth said. “You can imagine that their risk for heart disease and for having the heart attack is definitely elevated by that exposure.”
According to poll conducted by the Mellman Group of the United Way of Central Alabama, 76 percent of voters in Jefferson County would approve of a stricter smoking ban.
However, there are conflicting reports on how all-encompassing smoking bans affect the economic outlook of bars and clubs.
Austin encouraged business owners to voice their opinions by attending the hearing. Anyone with comments or concerns will be given three minutes to address the committee.
The hearing is set for 2 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the third floor of City Hall.