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Mississippi Lawmakers Again Consider an Indoor Smoking Ban

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 19 Jan 2011 07:48am | comments

Health advocates are once again pushing for an indoor smoking ban across the state of Mississippi. The legislature has addressed this issue before. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that this time there might be room for compromise.

For doctors and other public health advocates, the data is clear....second hand smoke is deadly and there is no safe amount.

Doctor Terry Pechacek from the Centers for Disease Control spoke at a joint hearing between the Senate and House Public Health Committees on Wednesday.

"Up to 10% of the heart attacks in the places that are not protected are being caused by second hand smoke," Pechacek said.

Pechacek was part of a large contingent of advocates calling for a comprehensive ban on smoking in indoor public places including restaurants and casinos.

Similar bills have failed in the past. Mike Cashion with the Hospitality and Restaurant Association doesn't dispute the health findings but argues it is a matter of personal freedom.

"The consumers have a choice to make a determination as to whether they want to go to a smoking restaurant or a smoke free. Just as the owners have a choice to determine what their smoking policy should be," Chasion said.

Cashion says business owners in Michigan reported falling revenues after the recent passage of a smoking ban, and warns that the same could happen here.

Doctor Robert McMillen with Mississippi State University spoke in favor of the ban and says local bans in several Mississippi cities could ease any lingering economic concerns.

"The research has been very clear when you look at objective data. Look at things like tax receipts, the number of liquor licenses issued, the number of employees in an establishment. That there is no effect on the hospitality industry as an aggregate," McMillen said.

Several Senators at the hearing hinted at favoring a narrower ban to strike a compromise between business and public health concerns.

It is unclear if that would win over reluctant lawmakers or sooth public health proponents who feel they have the momentum.

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