Jackson County

Should Ocean Springs ban smoking or leave it to businesses?

Waitress Tina Heathroe walks into Buzzy's Breakfast Joint in Ocean Springs after clearing a table on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016. Buzzy's, like many Ocean Springs restaurants and bars, already prohibits smoking inside.
Waitress Tina Heathroe walks into Buzzy's Breakfast Joint in Ocean Springs after clearing a table on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016. Buzzy's, like many Ocean Springs restaurants and bars, already prohibits smoking inside. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

Smoke-Free Ocean Springs, a coalition that formed more than a year ago, has announced the results of a poll it commissioned: 70 percent of Ocean Springs residents contacted want the city to go smoke free.

In a press conference Thursday, coalition members questioned how this city, known for being progressive, is trailing Moss Point and Pascagoula in having a smoke-free law.

Ron Schnoor, who runs World Marine of Pascagoula but is a resident of Ocean Springs, took a stab at it. He thinks some of the industrial plants that influence those cities have health initiatives and are strong opponents of smoking.

Kris Kwitzky, who owns Ocean Springs businesses Kwitzky’s Dugout and Buzzy’s Breakfast Joint, feels he is progressive. His Ocean Springs bar was the first in the state to go smoke free voluntarily 11 years ago. Now there are hundreds, he said.

For him, it was simple.

“I don’t smoke and I don’t want to be around it,” he said. And it hasn’t hurt business. He thinks it has helped.

I don’t smoke and I don’t want to be around it.

Kris Kwitzky, owner of Kwitzky’s Dugout

The coalition is made up of local, state and national organizations, such as the American Heart Association.

Katherine Bryant with the Heart Association is concerned about the secondhand smoke the city’s bar workers were exposed to for six to eight hours a night. They deserve to work in clean air, she said.

The poll was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies of Virginia, a company used often by conservative organizations in Mississippi, Bryant said.

The smoke-free movement is about getting a city law passed. There are 129 communities in the state that made the move. The coalition wants Ocean Springs to be No. 130.

Dr. Brian Persing with Singing River Health System said people are surprised to find Ocean Springs isn’t smoke free. He believes the community has already made the decision. “Now it’s about whether the elected officials agree.”

▪  City Alderman Jerry Dalgo, who represents neighborhoods in the east part of town, said, “When it comes up, people always say they’d like to see a smoking ban, but it really doesn’t come up that much.”

▪  Alderman Matt McDonnell, who represents downtown businesses as well as neighborhoods, said the bars and restaurants that don’t want smoking “already handle it in their businesses. They regulate it.” Asked if he would vote on a no-smoking ban city-wide, McDonnell said, “I’m a Republican. I’m for less government, not more.”

Other smoke-free Coast cities are Diamondhead and Picayune.

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