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January 23, 2012

Council passes smoking ban

Somerset —  

Pulaski County’s largest city is now smoke-free.
Somerset City Council voted Monday evening on the second reading of Ordinance 12-02 that would ban smoking in all enclosed public areas within the city limits — and the proposed ban passed with an 11-1 vote after councilors and Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler heard citizen comments from those who support the ban and from those who oppose it.
“I am really shocked at the fact that the City of Somerset is considering taking away the rights of businesses to make those decisions on whether we want our place of business to be smoking or non-smoking,” stated local business owner Teresa Singleton. “For you to take that on your own, I think that’s a major step in the wrong direction.” 
Singleton’s sentiments were echoed by several others, along with Councilor Jim Rutherford, Ward 1, who was the lone councilor to vote against the ban on Monday. 
“I have a great conflict inside of my soul tonight,” Rutherford, a former smoker, said. “I had several business owners approach me over the last several weeks very concerned with government encroachment.
“ ... I do want us to be on a level playing field with other cities,” Rutherford said. “There’s a city not two miles down the road where you can smoke wherever you want to and have a drink while you do it and no one seems to have anything to say about it.”
Many cities across the state have chosen to go smoke-free, with Corbin, located in Whitley County, being one of the municipalities to do so most recently. 
Girdler emphasized to the nearly 50 people crowded into the council room at Somerset City Hall that Monday’s meeting was not a public hearing in which the pros and cons of the ban were to be debated.

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