Anti-smoking group wants return of strict regulations

LAWRENCEVILLE - Steve Coldiron wishes he could celebrate, but the anniversary means little to him now.

April would have been the third anniversary of a restrictive ordinance banning smoking at nearly all public places in Gwinnett County, but elected officials chose in 2005 to dump the county law in favor of a less-severe state one.

The decision came after Coldiron, a cancer survivor and chairman of Smoke-Free Gwinnett, and others served on a committee studying the county ban's impact on local business. The group came up with recommended changes, but instead, commissioners chose to simply mimic the new state law.

"It was a waste of my time," Coldiron said of the study. "We'd like to have the old law back. It's just so much better for people."

But Commissioner Lorraine Green, who made the motion to do away with the county law, said she believes the board struck a good compromise to safeguard health and business interests.

"I believe folks who don't want to be around second-hand smoke are fully protected," she said. "I haven't heard any complaints from folks since the change."

Coldiron said he's heard

several complaints, especially from people who have to pass smokers on their way into businesses such as accountants' and doctors' offices. A provision of the county law restricted people from smoking within 20 feet of an entrance, but the measure was stripped.

Restaurant complaints, he said, don't come frequently, although the main thrust of the former law was to ban smoking inside eateries. Smoking is now allowed in separate rooms and establishments open to people 18 and older.

To get an understanding of current thoughts about smoking laws, Smoke-Free Gwinnett is asking people to complete a survey at www.Survey

Monkey.com/s.asp?u=397863548215 by April 30.

"Because of the volume of calls we have received since the weakening of the law, we have decided to use this anniversary to check in with the public to see if they are satisfied with the requirements and enforcement of the new state law," Coldiron said. "As anticipated when the commission adopted the weaker state law, we believe the public still favors the maximum protection from secondhand smoke for themselves and their families. ...

"Gwinnett County boasts the No. 1 Relay for Life event in the world, yet our county has taken steps backward when it comes to protecting our citizens from being exposed to the cancer-causing carcinogens from cigarette smoke."

For more information on Smoke-Free Gwinnett, visit www.smokefreegwinnett.com.