Montgomery smoking ban starts Sunday

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - With the new year comes a new ordinance in the city of Montgomery.  This Sunday, New Year's Day, a new tobacco ban takes effect at all city owned properties.  Not only is it designed to improve people's health, it could also save the city millions of dollars.

Mayor Todd Strange says the new policy is two fold-- to keep folks healthier and cut costs.

"Smokers cost about $1,500 dollars more on average a year, and so our healthcare costs are up $3.7 million dollars annually," Strange said.

Around 1,900 of the city's 2,600 employees signed a non-smoking affidavit as part of the ban. The 700 employees who did not sign the document will have to pay an additional $25 per month in their health insurance.

The ban mainly targets city employees, but it also applies to anyone smoking on city owned property, like sidewalks and parking lots.  It doesn't apply to the Alley Way or city rights-of-way, like streets or normal bus stops.

The only bus stop that is affected is the Intermodel bus stop.  We found several folks there smoking Thursday, and many told us they'd like to see designated areas for smoking.

James Sievers said, "I think they ought to have equal rights for smokers and non-smokers.  I see both sides of the story, and I am a smoker.  But I'm going to abide by the rules.  Just because I don't agree with it, doesn't mean you shouldn't follow the rules."

But many folks do agree with the new policy, like Matt Dixon.  He used to live in Los Angeles, which is a smoke free city.

"It's fantastic.  It's wonderful.  You know as a father and someone who cares about their own health, it's great to be able to go somewhere and eat your food and actually taste it," Dixon said.

Even though Montgomery's ban only applies to city property, Mayor Strange says it's a big step towards a healthier city.

"It's about changing behavior. Also, we have the second hand smoke issue that so many people complain about, and it's a real issue," Strange said.

City leaders hope it encourages folks to kick the habit, and start the new year smoke free.  However, they add, it's no different from the smoke free policy other private companies, like local hospitals, have implemented on their properties.

Copyright 2011 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.