Councilman Woody Holland first broached the subject of turning all restaurants and other places throughout the city that cater to the public into smoke-free environments at a recent work session, citing several family members and friends who have approached him on the subject.
“We now follow the state law that allows restaurants/bars to make the decision whether to be a smoking-type establishment and suffer the consequences of having no children allowed at any time in there unless there are separate areas,” Holland said. “I’d like to see it put on the agenda to have at least the discussion to see what the consequences would be to have the city of Villa Rica become smoking-free in restaurants and public buildings.”
Councilman Rusty Dean said he would be in favor of forcing restaurants, bars and other building open to the public to become smokeless and has requested Tanner Health System put together a presentation on how the city can become a smoke-free city.
Holland admitted that a change in the ordinance would likely have a negative effect on several businesses in the city, but he believes it’s worth it to make the change.
“I would say several restaurants/bars in town — three that I know of — would no longer be able to serve the same clientele unless they went out into the parking lot and smoked,” Holland said. “I hate to run off small businesses because they offer a service, but that’s something to be discussed.”
The city already has a policy that restricts smokers in public parks to certain areas and requires smokers to refrain from smoking within a set distance of city building entrances, though both are often ignored.
“What he is describing would actually make the city smoke-free, which would be a lot bigger spectrum and would actually change the policies for our public parks,” Community Development Manager Taurus Freeman.
Holland also is spearheading the push for the city to require drivers to only talk their cell phones while using a hands-free device.
“I typically almost get run over two or three times a week by somebody talking on their phone instead of driving,” he said. “I keep seeing in more and more areas I travel to, both in this country and other countries, cell phone talking not allowed unless you use hands-free devices. There’s nothing more important than driving a car when you’re sitting behind a steering wheel.”
Holland has actually brought the cell phone issue up before, but got little support by his fellow council members to enact a local ordinance. He may now have at least one councilman on his side.
“I’d like to see ordinances that other places are using, but I think it’s a good idea,” Dean said.
There are no state laws requiring drivers to use hands-free devices, though there is a distracted driver law that prohibits anyone under 18 years old operating a motor vehicle to text while driving.
Both issues will be presented at the March 6 meeting for discussion with existing ordinances used by other municipalities offered as examples if the city chooses to move forward with formulating its own ordinances pertaining to smoking and the use of hands-free cell phone devices.
“If the City Council as a whole wants to move forward with these we’ll draft ordinances that would be beneficial to Villa Rica and just cater to our needs,” Freeman said. “Both ordinances would require a wide range of enforcement that I don’t know that we’re ready for.”