ORANGE BEACH -- City officials from both of Baldwin County's beach cities are planning to ban smoking in most public places by the start of next year. The Orange Beach City Council held a public meeting Monday afternoon to start discussing a proposal to go smoke free in all but private homes and clubs, hotel rooms designated for smokers and bars.
Gulf Shores City Councilman Robert Craft attended the 3 p.m. meeting and said that his city was also pursuing a smoking ban: "We're very much inclined to do the same thing that you're talking about doing."
The Gulf Shores City Council will discuss the measure at its Monday work session, Craft said.
The proposal Orange Beach is mulling would make it illegal to smoke at any public property and in any work place. Exceptions to the ban would be private homes, private clubs, hotel and motel rooms designated for smoking, tobacco specialty shops, performance stages and bars -- defined as establishments that make 75 percent or more of their money on alcohol sales.
"We all know that the surgeon general came out in June with definitive results that secondhand smoke does kill and it's the third-leading cause of preventable death in the United States," said Orange Beach Councilwoman Tracy Holiday, who proposed the ordinance. "I think based on that we know this is a public health and safety issue."
Holiday said she wasn't sure that Orange Beach could prevent smoking on the beach because the city owns no public beach area. Craft said he wasn't sure yet how Gulf Shores would treat its many public beaches, or, for that matter, other outdoor areas such as golf courses. Enforcement of a smoking ban outdoors would be tricky, Craft said, and will be among the likely topics when council takes up the matter Monday.
In early August, Foley approved an ordinance that will prohibit smoking in most places open to the general public -- bars being the exception -- by Nov. 5. Fairhope followed a week later with its own similar tobacco ban that goes into effect on Nov. 20.
Tina Findley, a tobacco prevention and control coordinator for the Alabama Department of Public Health, said there's no safe level of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke and even a small amount can cause health problems.
"Especially when a child is sitting in a restaurant and they're sitting there for an hour and they're around smoking, even if it's on the other side of the building, it's like they smoked three cigarettes themselves," she said.
Cities mull smoke-free laws