DeKalb business owners fear smoking ban proposal

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - A proposal for an all-out smoking ban in Dekalb County has some business owners fearing they will lose customers.

The Dekalb County Board of Health wants county commissioners to strengthen the county's Clean Indoor Air Ordinance to ban smoking not only in parks and on playgrounds, but also in bars, pool halls and adult entertainment businesses. The Health Department cites health concerns and second-hand smoke as the main reasons.

But at Mr. Cue's Billiards in Tucker, where smoke fills the large hall, manager Richard Sweet fears the ban would cut his business by as much as 25 percent. And that doesn't include the 400 or so packs of cigarettes that were sold out of his lone vending machine placed in the back of the hall near the restrooms Sunday evening.

"I think people should have the ability to pick and choose what they want to do," Sweet told Channel 2’s Tony Thomas. "I would like it to be a statewide ban, not a county per county ban."

Customer reaction is mixed.

Virgil McKnight shoots pool at the bar regularly. He is a non-smoker and would love to see an all-out ban take effect.

“After a while, your eyes start burning so bad," he said.

But nearby smoker Garfield Stover said it would be hard for him to imagine a pool hall without smoking.

A few miles away at Bench Warmers on Clairmont Road, manager Jemia Norman said he predicts his business would drop by as much as 60 percent.

"Why can't it be a level playing field? Why can someone go two miles down the road and do something when you go two miles the other way you can't?” Norman said.

DeKalb County's District Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Ford said she has data to suggest businesses have nothing to fear. For every argument of lost revenues for businesses impacted by the proposed amendment, she has data from other cities that have passed 100 percent smoke-free policies with little reduction in revenues.

The County Board of Health has given its approval to the increased smoking ban. The Dekalb County Board of Commissioners could vote on the measure in early June. Some business owners and supporters plan to address county leaders at a Tuesday meeting to begin their campaign to keep the smoking laws the way they currently are in the county.