WINCHESTER — Citizens' opinions were split during a public hearing Thursday night about a proposed smoking ban in Clark County.
On Sept. 23, the Clark County Board of Health approved on first reading a county-wide ban on smoking in enclosed public places. The establishments affected would include bars, bingo halls, restaurants and retail stores.
About 25 people came to the hearing Thursday at George Rogers Clark High School to condemn or support the ban.
Small business owners and tobacco farmers expressed the biggest frustration with the non-smoking measure. They said they were concerned that their businesses would falter and their rights would be taken away under the regulation.
"Clark County's got to stand up and fight," said Betty Osborne, who has lived in Winchester for 20 years. Osborne, who is opposed to the smoking ban, said non-smokers should be able to choose whether or not to patronize establishments that allow smoking.
Others supported the measure as a way to keep non-smoking citizens safe from risks associated with secondhand smoke. "We can't prevent people from smoking, and I don't want to," said Clark County resident Pam Montgomery, "but I don't want to be asphyxiated by their smoke."
Scott Lockard, the Clark County Public Health Director, said the board would consider making changes to the non-smoking regulation based on comments at the hearing. A date for a final vote on the smoking ban hasn't been set.
Lockard said the board would probably enact the ban on Jan. 1 if it's approved.