Supporters stand, opponents sit, while Krista Stark addresses members of the City Council. (TFJ Photo)

(JOPLIN, Mo.) The Joplin City Council was divided in support of, but unanimous in a motion to revisit the issue of a city ordinance in favor of a smoke ban in public places.

The Council heard nearly two hours of testimony from dozens of individuals who came out in support and against the ordinances.

Krista Stark, Co-Chairwoman of Smoke Free Joplin, told members, “Standing before you tonight are those that were able to come to ask you to pass a smoke free indoor coalition in Joplin.”

“[S]econd hand smoke is a serious health issue, and can be addressed by making businesses 100% smoke free,” Stark said.

Hospital officials and representatives from Missouri Southern State University also stood in support of the proposal.

While those in support of the ordinance argued in favor of individual rights, those in opposition argued in favor of property rights for business owners.

“We model our business after what the customers want,” said Ryan Jackson, one of the owners of Sportsman’s Park in Joplin. “It comes down to what keeps the doors open, and where people spend the money.”

Another person in opposition of the plan said the research was flawed, and he was afraid of this being another step on the way to becoming a “socialist nation.”

The meeting comes the day a poll was released by Smoke Free Joplin/Fako & Associates, that said 59% of voters would be supportive of a city ordinance banning smoking in public places, including restaurants and public buildings. 36% opposed.

“Clearly, there is strong support for smoke-free policy change among Joplin voters,” said Josh Garrett, Field Government Relations Director, American Cancer Society. “As we’ve seen increasing smoke-free momentum across the nation, it’s easy to understand why voters here want the same protection in their own community.”

The Council will pick the issue back up Monday night during a working session. Members indicated their support of putting the issue on the April ballot.

Stark said they should “do their job” and vote on the ordinance.

The proposal the Council is considering is similar to ones taken up by the states of Arkansas and Kansas. Both Springfield and Columbia have enacted similar city ordinances.

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