NICHOLASVILLE — For about an hour Monday night, members of the Nicholasville City Commission listened as more than a dozen people talked about a smoking ban that is being considered for all of Jessamine County.
The opposition was in the majority, and most cited individual rights as the reason.
"I'm here to speak for personal liberty and personal freedom," said Mike Doyle. "I do not believe it is government's responsibility to tell us where we can and can't smoke."
The proposed ordinance was drafted by a committee of representatives of the Nicholasville City Commission, Wilmore City Council and Jessamine County Fiscal Court.
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The Wilmore City Council also was to meet Monday night and allow public comment.
After the fiscal court holds a similar hearing, the committee plans to reconvene this month to discuss whether the three bodies should proceed with the current proposal — which exempts bars and some other establishments — or a more comprehensive ban, or not have a ban, said Nicholasville Commissioner Doug Blackford, who is on the committee.
He said the hope is that the three bodies will reach the same decisions, creating a comprehensive policy for the entire county.
"Everybody's in favor of doing it as a whole," he said.
Under the ordinance being considered, smoking would be prohibited inside, or near entrances of, all enclosed places and places of employment, including restaurants, and at outdoor stadiums and arenas.
Private residences would be exempt, except when they are used as a child care, adult day care or health care facility.
Bars and cigar bars also would be exempt, as would hotel and motel rooms designated for smoking, retail tobacco stores, private clubs and private functions at otherwise regulated locations.
But at Monday night's meeting, Carol Riker, a professor of nursing representing the Kentucky Center for Smoke-Free Policy at the University of Kentucky, said a ban with so many exemptions might get less support than no ban at all.
"A partial law may not protect the workers of Jessamine County," she said, adding that it might be difficult to enforce and could open the county up to lawsuits because of fairness issues.
Terry Crowley, a former Danville city commissioner, told the commission he hoped it would pass a comprehensive ban, without the exclusions for bars that are being considered.
He said his decision to vote for the comprehensive policy that Danville has was the hardest he had to make during his time in office, but "it's the one thing that I am the most proud of."
"I visualized a job seeker, someone who wants to work, someone who needs to work" but who also has asthma or a similar problem, Crowley said. "How horrible it would be for that person to have to put their health at risk ... just to pay the bills."
But Lynn Congleton, who owns a small bar in Nicholasville, said family members are the only people he employs anyway. He said a complete ban would put him out of business because 75 percent of his customers smoke, and his is the only bar in town that does not have outdoor seating.
"Our business is a good time. Running outside to have a cigarette in the rain is out of the question," he said. "I should be able to put a sign on the door that says, 'This is a smoking establishment. Enter at your own risk.'"